Greenwood resident trains service dogs, creates handmade dog bandanas
Writer & Photographer / Matt Roberts
What do you do when you have a love for dogs and a talent for crafts?
If you’re Danielle Abouhalkah, you dive into a commitment to train service dogs and create an online business that donates part of the proceeds to a non-profit.
Danielle both works and attends school full time. But as a lifelong dog lover, she found herself living with a cat in an apartment complex in Florida with a one-pet limit. Training a service dog became both a solution and an avocation.
“A service dog didn’t count as a pet (in the lease),” she says.
After a year, Danielle returned to Indianapolis and continued to train service dogs. In 2016, she founded GiveDropLeaveIt, an online store where she sells dog bandanas and dog-related clothing and art for dog lovers. She donates a portion of each sale to New Horizons Service Dogs, which breeds dogs for service and coordinates training.
“I take my dog everywhere with me, and I always like to put different bandanas on him,” she says. “I got a lot of craft skills from my mom, so I just thought, ‘Why not make and sell them and donate a portion of the proceeds?’
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accommodations for people with service animals, defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” The Act requires access for
servicedogs are to any space open to the public.
There’s still some confusion about the requirements of the ADA, likely due to the
different requirements for therapy animals and emotional support dogs. The Act specifically excludes “dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support”.
“Yesterday we went out to dinner and the lady said, ‘I think you have to sit at a table outside,’” Danielle says. “And I said ‘No, we don’t have to sit on the patio, we can sit inside.’
“A lot of people get therapy and emotional support dogs confused with service animals,” she adds. “Sometimes people will take their ES dogs into Kroger, and they’re really not supposed to be there. And if that dog creates a scene, the next time I come in they’ll say, ‘The last service dog was tearing up cereal boxes.’”
Danielle’s current charge is a puppy named Moby Dick. She’ll have him for about 10 months, and then he’ll go into a prison in Florida to continue his training as part of an inmate program. After another six months being re-socialized on the outside, Moby will be assigned to a person with disabilities.
Danielle spends hours every day training Moby for tasks that might be required when he begins supporting a new owner.
“We have tugs all over our house,” Danielle says. “He can open every drawer, open the refrigerator, and we do a lot of wheelchair work.”
Danielle’s store can be found online at etsy.com/shop/GiveDropLeaveIt.