Training to Lead is a dog obedience, placement program receiving support, and accolades, from those who have used the program.
Marathon runners Brittany and Ryan Ford, both USD 382 teachers of Pratt, are spearheading a drive to raise $1,000.00 for Training to Lead, a special dog training and placement program located in Stafford.
Brittany, Ryan and friends are running in the Prairie Fire Fall Marathon Sunday, October 14, in Wichita, and are dedicating their first entry into the event as a fundraiser for non-profit Training to Lead.
Along with Susan Mayberry, administrative assistant to vice-president of students and enrollment at Pratt Community College who is using her Facebook presence as a platform, the Fords want to support Mike and Jo Cargill and their daughter, Casey Cross, because they believe Training to Lead has a special mission in the lives of those who love dogs and those who need them for health reasons.
Mayberry said her idea for the Facebook fundraiser was sparked by her 50th birthday because she was peppered with questions about what did she want for the landmark occasion. Mayberry said she immediately knew a fundraiser for Training to Lead was the answer and used Facebook to provide opportunity for donations with a goal of $300.
“They are the best caring, honest, hardworking people I have seen. They do amazing rescues and re-homing animals,” Mayberry said.
Training to Lead offers an annual six-week summer agility training program at Pratt’s Sixth Street Park, which has been popular and has resulted in strong bonding between owners and pets, Mike Cargill said.
Cargill said his family adopts dogs in the six to 18-month age range from animal shelters and, after a year to 18 months of in-home training at the Cargill residence, finds a permanent home for each dog at no cost to a person who needs what the dog has to offer.
“We live with the dogs iu our home environment. No kennels,” Cargill said.
Training to Lead works with service dogs, who assist people with disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and therapy dogs, who are trained to interact with people in a wide range of settings to give emotional or physical support.
All three Cargill family members work for Stafford USD 349. Mike teaches the full spectrum of science classes, covering all the courses from biology to robotics. Jo manages the district kitchen and supervises cafeteria employees. Casey is a first grade paraprofessional.
In past years, Training to Lead has been part of the Stafford High School program, which involved having students do training with dogs in their homes, but that portion of the Training to Lead program had to be discontinued this year because of school district staffing issues, Cargill said.
Expenses include an average of 600 pounds of dog food monthly, and vet services as needed, Mike said. He expressed appreciation to the Hullman family for discounting prices on both food and medical expenses.
Plans are already in the works for next summer’s Agility Training at Sixth Street Park. Mike said he leaves that part of the program to daughter Casey.
“I’m too fat and too old to run with the dogs anymore,” Cargill said.
Those who have worked with him, agree that Cargill has a gift for communicating with dogs, however.
“He is the closest thing to a dog whisperer that I have ever seen,” Brittany Ford said.
Cargill said when he visits a shelter to look for a dog, he has a silent conversation with them. In all the years he has been training dogs, Cargill said he has never had “a failure,” though there was one close call, when he thought he might have to return a dog to the shelter, but finally something clicked with the dog and he turned to be an excellent placement, he said.
Mike and Jo trained “Lakota,” the golden retriever adopted by Brittany and Ryan last July, when Lakota was just over a year old.
The Fords are working with Lakota to serve as a therapy dog and the couple is currently in training for certifications with Family Dog Training and Behavior Center in Valley Center.
Then, together, or individually, Brittany and Ryan will be able to take Lakota into their classrooms – Brittany teaches second grade at Southwest Elementary and Ryan is a Special Education teacher at Liberty Mid-School – to work with students.
Brittany’s father is Dr. Shan Hullman, who operates South Fork Veterinary Hospital in Pratt where her mother Shelly Hullman is office manager.
The Hullmans will join the marathon runners, along with friends Traci Crow, Dan Decker, Jason Ghumm, Patrick Egging and Lyndsie Weaver.
Donations for the marathon fundraiser may be dropped off or mailed to South Fork Veterinary Hospital at 2201 East 1st Street in Pratt.