Assistance dogs lighten the mood at the Roundhouse

By Joe Thompson

Three cuddly yellow labs won unanimous approval from stressed-out passersby at the New Mexico State Capitol building this session.

The dogs came from the Santa Fe-based Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW), which provides them with about 2,000 hours of professional training before placing them with human handlers.

Lead trainer Mara Perrigo explained that bringing the dogs to the busy Roundhouse is part of the dogs’ training. Being in a crowd of strangers and going up and down in elevators “simulates a lot of what they’re going to be doing in their jobs,” Perrigo said.

The trainers demonstrated how the dogs have learned basic manners, such as sitting and lying down, but also tasks such as picking up car keys, which are useful to the kinds of people the dogs will be placed with, including disabled veterans.


Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) focuses on building relationships between dogs and people. The trainers and dogs, who are in the finishing parts of their training, were at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico because it replicates a lot of what the dogs will be doing with their jobs.  Throughout the whole puppy selection, training, and matching process, ADW prioritizes the mental, physical, and emotional health of the dogs under their care. “Qualities of kindness, gentleness and respect in training dogs to assist humans define everything that we do.” – ADW’s About Us page

♬ original sound – Joe Thompson

It typically takes around two years to train an assistance dogs, a process that starts when first start when they open their eyes, Perrigo said.

One of the dogs in the video will go to a veteran while the other two will be working in facilities such as courthouses and police departments.

Other dogs at Assistance Dogs of the West are trained for specific needs, including diabetic alert, epilepsy alert, and autism assistance.