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Noble Paws gives sled dog rides for those experiencing disabilities

Published: Apr. 10, 2021 at 6:31 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Noble Paws, a Fairbanks non-profit that provides dog mushing opportunities for people experiencing disabilities, opened its doors to the community Saturday with a kennel tour and dog sled rides.

One of those visitors was 7-year-old Jetty Lymburner.

“My oldest (Jetty) really wants a dog, so we are out here to show him what it takes,” Ashley Lymburner, Jetty’s mother, said.

Jetty experiences autism and has come a long way since his mother first realized he had special needs at 3-years-old.

“There is just a little extra patience and priority that he requires, but he’s still just as engaged as everyone else,” Ashley said. “But it’s great that we can get that extra time to have that one on one.”

The Founder and Executive Director of Noble Paws, Steve Vick, set up a quarter-mile loop and took participants on dogsled rides.

Vick said the idea to work with children and adults experiencing disability was from the connection he felt with his own dog team.

“I don’t have a relative that has a disability,” Vick said, “I just thought it would work well. The idea of pairing kids and adults with dogs, taking them out for sled rides, teaching them to run their own dog team gives them a sense of independence. It gives them a new sense of ability so they can go out and experience things like that.”

The Noble Paws staff are experienced dog mushers trained to work with special needs and disabled populations. The dogs are regarded as ‘service’ dogs and provide physical assistance, fellowship, and an emotional connection for the participant. They also offer wheelchair-accessible dog sleds.

Vick said Noble Paws works with participants with a wide variety of needs, including at-risk youth, those with cerebral palsy, autism, or any disability.

“The goal of Noble Paws is to have every kid that’s in our program run their own dog team, handle their own dog team, harness their own dogs, and eventually run in a race,” Vick said. “Every kid that’s been in our program has done that.”

Vick said their season is finishing up, but interested participants can reach out to him on their website.

Ashley said she is grateful for the opportunity to bring her son out.

“I know we are going through a really horrendous time right now with Covid,” Ashley said. “But I really appreciate the support of the community and everyone working together to still hold events like this for the kids because it’s really important.”

And about that dog Jetty wants… His mom Ashley said he could look forward to adopting one this summer.

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