AV team graduates from assistance dog program

Jerry Knutson and Jade

Apple Valley resident Gerald “Jerry” Knutson and mobility assist dog Jade will graduate Saturday, June 10, from the Can Do Canines assistance dog program.

Knutson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 55 and everyday life presented him with challenges and pain. He was matched with Jade, a 2-year-old smooth-coated collie. Jade now lives with Knutson, his wife Leslie, and their cat Max, and is able to assist Knutson with many daily tasks that previously caused him a lot of discomfort.

“She’ll get my keys if I need them, she’ll open the refrigerator, and she’ll close the drawers if I tell her to,” he said. “She’s nice to have around to help me.”

Jade not only retrieves items for Knutson, she also offers stability and acts as a brace if he were to fall.

The June 10 graduation ceremony represents the culmination of a long journey for the assistance dogs and their partners. Beginning with puppy raisers, either in the homes of volunteers or at one of four Minnesota and Wisconsin prisons, the dogs are reared and taught basic obedience and early assistance dog skills. After 18 months, they are returned to Can Do Canines for final training and to begin their new life with a person in need, free of charge.

The graduation ceremony is 1 p.m. June 10 at Can Do Canines, 9440 Science Center Drive, New Hope. For more information, visit can-do-canines.org.