MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On Sunday, Service Dog Alabama held its 2018 graduation ceremony. Fourteen dogs walked across the stage to receive their service dog certification.
"This is the culmination of a weekend of training and recertification for children and veterans who have received their service dogs from us during this past year and facility dogs for some of the schools, and so today is just the culmination of all the hard work they've done to get to where they are," Frances McGowin, the executive director of Service Dog Alabama, said.
The program is intense, and according to the head trainer, Ashley Taylor, only one of every two dogs that enter the program will graduate.
"It takes a special dog. Not all of our dogs are going to make it," Taylor said. "It's going to take a dog that is in tune to their person. They have to be able to pair the scent of their disability, whether it be their anxiety, the diabetic alert dog or the seizure alert dogs, and they've got to have a high tolerance for working in crowded situations. It's a high-stress situation all the time,"
Each dog that graduates is trained for medical assistance and intervention, and they're trained for a variety of needs, like seizure alert, diabetic alert, wheelchair assistance, and intervention tasks for those with post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.
Malachi Earnhardt has autism. His service dog, Colt, goes everywhere with him.
"We go to school. He goes on the boat with us, he swims," Earnhardt said.
His mom, Stacey, said before they got Colt, Malachi was a completely different person.
"His voice would be so quiet you could hardly understand what he was saying," Stacey Earnhardt said.
But now, "he's just like a regular kid."
"He is just so confident, I mean he just carries on a conversation with you know and he's so happy," Stacey Earnhardt said.
Addie is another dog who graduated from Service Dog Alabama.
"She goes on home visits with probation officers when they have a difficult home situation and goes into the schools," Beverly Wise, a juvenile court administrator, said.
Addie also works at the detention center.
"Their faces change. You know sometimes they don't trust adults they don't trust anybody," Wise said.
But, they trust Addie, because that's what she's there for.
"There is nothing that can do what these dogs do," McGowin said.