Disabled Navy Seal to Receive Assistance Dog from Assistance Dogs of Hawaii
Kimo Akaka and the Hilo Prosecutor’s Office Will Receive Assistance Dogs After Team Training Camp June 23-27 in Makawao, Maui, Hawaii
Former Navy Seal Kimo Akaka will receive an incomparable gift this month – man’s best friend. After two years of collaboration with Assistance Dogs of Hawaii (ADH), Kimo will do his final training with two year-old black Labrador Akamai and prepare to receive his service dog on Oahu in early July. The Team Training Camp will last June 23-27 at the ADH main campus in Makawao, and both Akamai and a Courthouse Dog, Faith, will graduate and be placed with their partners.
A Navy Seal veteran for 17 years, Kimo began his honorable work with the Navy Seals in 1981 as a member of Unit 2, which sent him to the East Coast and San Diego. He suffered a stroke in 2011 that left him with limited mobility and without speech. Akamai has been trained in a special sign language in order to communicate with Kimo, who is completely non-verbal. Akamai knows almost one hundred different signals and understands complete sentences in sign language. He is also trained to accompany Kimo in the water, since Kimo still competes in swimming and paddling races despite his limited mobility. By strapping himself to the board and using his right arm to paddle and right foot to steer, Kimo is able to navigate the ocean that he loves most. Kimo recently completed the Olukai Ho’olaule’a on Maui, with Akamai waiting for him at the finish line. “I never thought I would be disabled, but now with Akamai by my side, I will never be alone. I thank the man above for the priceless gift of Akamai, he is my angel,” says Kimo.
The second graduating Assistance Dog will be a black Labrador named Faith. She is attending Team Training Camp for two weeks with Pat Brilaut. This Courthouse Dog will join a guardian and work full-time at the Hilo prosecutor’s office. She will be working with children who are victims or witnesses of crime and help them throughout the difficult legal process, providing comfort and courage.
The teams attend an intensive two to three week Team Training Camp at the Maui campus as well as their home and workplaces. The teams learn to work together and the recipients must memorize more than ninety commands that the dogs already know. Students also learn about canine psychology, health care, and how to bring out the best in their canine partner.
“We are so excited about these new partnerships and thankful for the opportunity to give back to veterans like Kimo, who have sacrificed so much for our country. Faith is the third Courthouse Dog we have placed in Hawaii and it’s been amazing to see the difference they make for so many children going through a very difficult time,” says Executive Director Mo Maurer. “This is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by so many people that support our program, and we couldn’t be happier.”
Team Training Camp is not open to the public, but we invite media to join on Friday, June 26 at 2 pm at the Main Campus of Assistance Dogs of Hawaii located at 675 Kealaloa Avenue in Upcountry Makawao. To RSVP and for more information, high-resolution images, and requests for interviews, please contact Kristin Hettermann at 808-205-4767 or Kristin@gracedelivers.com.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ASSISTANCE DOGS OF HAWAII
About Assistance Dogs of Hawaii
Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides Assistance Dogs to children and adults in Hawaii with physical disabilities and other special needs. ADH is based on Maui and has a state-of-the-art training facility in Makawao. ADH specializes in training Service Dogs for people with disabilities, Hospital Facility Dogs, and Courthouse Dogs. ADH also assists in placing Guide Dogs for the blind, Hearing Dogs for the deaf and Seizure Response Dogs for people with seizure disorders. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, ADH places its Assistance Dogs and lifetime follow-up support free of charge to the recipients.
Assistance Dogs are carefully selected based on breed, health, and temperament and begin training at 7 weeks old. They must complete four stages of training which take about 2 years: Kindergarten, Basic, Advanced and Graduate. The dogs learn over 90 commands and are trained to perform specific skills that will assist their partners. Dogs are matched with their partners after one and a half to two years of training and passing rigorous health and temperament screenings.
ADH provides free follow up visits and training for the life of each team. This is especially important for graduates that may have disabilities that are progressive. The dogs continually learn new skills that may be needed to help their partners.
Community Outreach Programs
Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is a statewide program that reaches hundreds of people in the community each week through a variety of therapy programs designed to benefit, support, and enhance the lives of people with physical and developmental disabilities in our community. This includes: Wounded Warrior Program, Therapy Dog Program, Workplace Readiness Program, and the READ Program.