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After developing such a strong bond with your Assistance Dog, it can be difficult imagining life without them by your side. As your dog ages, it’s important to ask yourself, “Can I continue my current level of independence with my current dog?” If the answer is no, it may be time to consider your options.

It’s up to you to determine if and when you want to retire your Assistance Dog. Talk with your Field Rep at recertification and your vet to get their opinion on how your dog is performing or how much longer they can perform at this level.


Paws with a Cause



    Learn how MITCHELL

    gave Joanne hope




    Determine the right time for you

    to request a Successor Dog




    Start the qualification





Paws with a Cause


“As days passed without WILLIE, I started losing the life he and I had built up. Now, a little more confidence creeps back into my head and I feel my independence and strength returning as MITCHELL wiggles and steals his way into my heart.”

Joanne, about her PAWS Successor Dog MITCHELL

During our twelve years together, my Assistance Dog WILLIE became a part of me. I often said we were joined at the hip since that’s how it felt to have his dependable presence with me. His help allowed me to live independently. In taking care of him, I took better care of myself.

Without WILLIE, I thought life would be more tear-filled, but strangely it wasn’t. His spirit stayed with me. I never felt his absence, just the physical effects of life without him there. But, as days passed without him, I started losing the life WILLIE and I had built up. If too much time went by without help, I was concerned I might need to move in with family.

A few months later I met WILLIE’s successor, MITCHELL. While riding in the car to PAWS Headquarters, I experienced the same feelings I had twelve years before when I met WILLIE for the first time. It was a mix of nervousness, excitement, nausea and wanting to jump out of my skin. MITCHELL’s exuberance put a smile on my face and in my heart. His eyes had the same intense, bright look that WILLIE’s always had – I took that as a good sign. Each minute with MITCHELL brought me closer to feeling that life could return to normal.

When MITCHELL was ready to come home with me, my brain felt scrambled with so many thoughts flying through it – happiness, panic and a bit of sadness for missing WILLIE. I hadn’t heard the announcement for PAWS staff who wished to say goodbye to MITCHELL to come to the front lobby, so it was quite a surprise when we walked into the lobby and saw so many familiar faces waiting. The thought of so many people playing a role in bringing MITCHELL to me really made the tears flow. My days are definitely not as quiet as they were during the six months before MITCHELL arrived. Each day, a little more confidence creeps back into my head and I feel my independence and strength returning as MITCHELL wiggles and steals his way into my heart.

Now I’m looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead of us. My deepest thanks to PAWS for once again giving me the promise of better days ahead.

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Paws with a Cause



Every client can apply for a Successor Dog, but not everyone is accepted. You need to complete an updated application and needs assessment to evaluate if a new Assistance Dog can meet your current needs.

It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready to apply. Some choose to wait until their current dog passes and others overlap their Successor Dog with their retired dog. Retired dogs are allowed to stay in the home with a Successor Dog or you can choose to place them with a family member, friend or PAWS.

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Paws with a Cause


To apply for a Successor Dog, contact:

PAWS Client Services

Phone: 800-253-7297

Email: csdirect@pawswithacause.org

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