Photo by rachel johnson

Ruby, a therapy dog trained in the Hearts of Gold program, making an appearance in the Mountainlair.

Dogs have become more than just a companion to millions of people in the United States. They have become essential parts of the lives of some people with disabilities, who rely on these specially trained dogs to navigate the world.

The Daily Athenaeum has taken a look into the process these dogs go through to earn their red vests and status as a service dog, and what happens after their training is complete. The entire training process takes about two years to complete, and only 30% of dogs nationwide pass, Savannah Connelly, assistant trainer at Hearts of Gold, said.

This new series, “Helping Paws,” which releases on Feb. 6, will go behind the scenes of service dog training, testing and eventual assignment by Hearts of Gold, a service dog training program.

Hearts of Gold is based in Morgantown and trains and places service dogs to help assist people with disabilities. WVU students are able to take courses to learn how to train service dogs, and in turn the dogs in turn learn how to work with different people.

For some of the dogs that aren’t able to be service animals, they become therapy dogs in locations like hospitals, airports and schools, such as WVU. In fact, all of the therapy dogs on WVU’s campus were originally trained in the Hearts of Gold Program.

This series will also explore the differences between service, therapy and emotional support animals.

Follow the DA’s social media platforms and our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on new content for the “Helping Paws” series.