Retired COPE service dog Buddy, who spent several years as a Canine in the Classrooms dog in Barrie-area schools is set to head out on a big adventure in the coming weeks.
In order to celebrate his retirement, Buddy and his owner, Jane Boake, will be stand-up paddleboarding around Lake Simcoe to raise funds and awareness for COPE service dogs. The trip will span approximately 240 kilometres, and will take just over a week to complete.
COPE Service Dogs is an organization that raises and trains service dogs primarily for people with mobility issues. The mission of COPE is to empower individuals to overcome their own challenges while helping to train service dogs.
COPE works with school boards to engage students in the training and teaching of COPE puppies and dogs. In exchange, students experience increased confidence, emotional self-control, empathy and are motivated to be successful in school.
Buddy and Boake are scheduled to set off on the adventure July 29, at Innisfil Beach Park, and will make a variety of stops at kids camps, festivals and businesses in Bradford, Keswick, Jackson Point, Beaverton, Lagoon City, Orillia, and the surrounding areas along the way before ultimately landing in Barrie for Kempenfest.
“He’s going to be turning 13 on Aug. 5, the day we arrive at Kempenfest at 5 p.m., and so the whole crowd is going to sing Happy Birthday to him. So it’s kind of his birthday adventure as well as his retirement adventure,” said Buddy Paddles Simcoe spokesperson, Sylvia Stark.
Buddy started out as a COPE service dog, but due to medical concerns, he was unable to become a therapy dog. Instead, he became a Canines in the Classroom dog and spent years at Nantyr Shores Secondary School in Innisfil providing emotional support and a reading buddy for countless students.
“COPE dogs have a calming effect on students, it helps them deal with their emotions and it improves their mental health,” said Stark. “Students who have worked with Buddy over the years say they’ve really made a difference, they’ve gained self-confidence, they’ve become more social, they’ve been able to make friends.”
According to Stark, Buddy has had a profound impact on many students and will be missed greatly at the school.
“I spoke with a student a couple of weeks ago that actually said he never would have graduated high school if it wasn’t for Buddy. So he’s had quite an impact on students throughout the area,” she said.
However, Stark says COPE dogs are not limited to the classroom.
“We have the canines in the classroom, we have dogs that after their training they go and live with somebody to help assist them in their daily routine,” she said. “So there is a variety of dogs that we have within the COPE service.”
Stark says raising awareness about the many things COPE dogs do is what the adventure is all about.
“Jane, the founder of COPE service dogs decided to do this as a celebration but also to raise money for student mental health through COPE service dogs. So they’re just going to go out there and it’s just going to be a fun adventure to meet people, to tell people about what COPE service dogs do, what Canines in the Classroom does and hopefully bring a lot of awareness and raise some funds to keep the program going,” she said.
Buddy Paddles Simcoe has set a $10,000 fundraising goal, with all proceeds going to COPE service dogs.
Those interested in donating to Buddy and COPE’s Canines in the Classroom initiative can do so on their website.
Now, after years of hard work helping students, Buddy is ready to have some fun. According to Stark, that means paddleboarding.
“Buddy has been on a paddleboard since he was a puppy, so he really enjoys it. He and Jane go out in the evenings throughout the many years,” she said.
Buddy and Boake are set with all of the necessary equipment for the adventure, including a dog-sized life jacket, however, they are still looking to find an escort boat to accompany them on their journey.
“We want people to come out and meet Buddy, get their picture taken with him and learn more about the COPE charity, and have fun as Buddy passes by,” Stark said.