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Learn About Highland Canine Connect’s Recent Service Dog Delivery In Puerto Rico

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At Highland Canine Connect, we are proud to improve the lives of those who really need help through our range of canine programs and community initiatives. These programs truly make a difference and harness the power of canine connections to improve the quality of life for many individuals and their families.

Our Service Dog Donation program has been integral to our mission since our non-profit launched in 2019. In that time, we have donated fully-trained service dogs to fulfill a wide range of tasks – from helping military veterans, to a 9/11 responder, and a teenage girl who was the victim of a shark attack. These amazing service dogs are able to help their handlers on a daily basis by making their lives easier.

Recently, our team had the privilege to visit Puerto Rico for a very special service dog delivery! Two of our trainers, Carlos Hernandez and Magdalena Szymanska, delivered Tucson – a mobility assistance service dog – to a boy named Jaziel. Tucson was trained to perform a number of tasks that will help Jaziel to move around with more independence and increase his confidence.

To learn more about the benefits that Tucson will bring to Jaziel’s life, as well as the delivery itself, we spoke with Jaziel’s family and our trainers.

Which tasks was Tucson trained to perform?

We asked Carlos to explain the tasks that Tucson was trained for in order to help Jaziel.

“Tucson was trained to bring Jaziel his ‘MAFO’ braces,” explains Carlos. “These are the leg braces that Jaziel uses to be able to walk. Previously, Jaziel’s Mom had to bring these to Jaziel, but with Jaziel now having more independence, he can rely on Tucson to bring them to him.

“Tucson is also trained to help Jaziel go up and down stairs or steps, and is also able to stay still and help him get up if he is on the ground.”

How will these tasks benefit Jaziel?

As with any service dog, the trained tasks will offer an immeasurable benefit to their handler. In this instance, Jaziel’s confidence, independence and movement will all improve as a result of having Tucson in his life.

“Independence is very important for Jaziel – he is becoming a teenager soon,” says Carlos. “Now, he can go to the bathroom with Tucson there to support him. Previously, he needed the help of his Mom or teachers at the school. In fact, he fell in the school bathroom a few days before delivery, because he didn’t want help from anybody.”

Carlos also explains that having Tucson by his side has also improved Jaziel’s social interactions with other children.

“Tucson will really help Jaziel to integrate with other kids. Now, he feels like a famous personality – people are coming up to him and talking to him. They want pictures with him and Tucson, and generally he is receiving a lot of love.”

Jaziel’s family also agrees that they have seen a noticeable difference in Jaziel’s behavior since the delivery of Tucson.

“Tucson has united us more as a family – he is the center and we try to take care of him,” says Jaziel’s mother, Audi. “Jaziel’s change in confidence, self-esteem and independence are very large and came very quickly.

”At first, Jaziel did not go up the stairs alone and it was hard for him to do it with Tucson. Now, they do it very well. The two of them understand each other so well.”

jaziel and tucson at home improvement store

The delivery in Puerto Rico

Tucson’s delivery saw trainer Carlos return to his homeland of Puerto Rico, and was the first time Magdalena had ever visited the island. It was also the first service dog delivery for Highland Canine Connect outside of the mainland United States.

“The delivery was a very professional job,” said Audi. “It was well-coordinated and involved a lot of learning for us.”

From Carlos’ perspective, the delivery was both enjoyable and rewarding.

“To be able to deliver Tucson to Puerto Rico – my island – was amazing,” explains Carlos. “We definitely enjoyed the delivery. It was so rewarding to see the journey of a puppy you picked from the litter, and then raised and trained, and has now been delivered.

“Tucson is life changing for the child and his family. To see the bond between them was more than rewarding. Jaziel is a smart and lovely kid.

“We all laughed a lot because Magdalena doesn’t speak Spanish, and the family doesn’t speak English, but they both found a way to communicate with each other.”

For Magdalena, the delivery was her first trip to Puerto Rico – and she would love to go back at some point.

“I had never been to Puerto Rico before, but I was very fortunate to go there with Carlos. Puerto Rico is his motherland!” says Magdalena. “The service dog delivery kept us very busy but Carlos still managed to show me around. I love the food and the hospitality – I will definitely go back there one day.

“This was my first service dog delivery and it was an amazing experience. Seeing the growing bond between the dog and his boy was incredible. It was a perfect match! I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to experience this.

“Tucson definitely is a part of the family, and is a best friend to Jaziel. He will definitely give him more independence and confidence.”

Jaziel and Tucson were even featured on the news! Take a look at the report below from Telemundo PR.

In summary

As Erin Purgason, founder of Highland Canine Connect, explains, this marks a significant step for the non-profit in expanding the provision of its programs.

“For our mission at Highland Canine Connect, this delivery marks new territory for us. It was our first service dog delivery outside the mainland United States. We have seen the benefit of our programs locally and across other parts of the country, but this delivery in Puerto Rico truly underlines our commitment to improving lives through the power of canine connections.

I am so proud of our trainers for the work they did in delivering Tucson to Jaziel and his family. Tucson and Jaziel already seem to be an unstoppable team, and we can’t wait to see how they progress from here!”

jaziel in scooter with tucson mobility service dog

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