Our Beginnings

Assistance Dogs has Joe and Pamela "Sam" Maxwell to thank for its beginning. Sam Maxwell started “ Guide Dogs for the Handicapped” in 1984 by training their dog, Abbey, for her husband, who was a quadriplegic. Joe also helped train several dogs. Guide Dogs for the Handicapped was created to "provide specially trained dogs and/or adaptive equipment that aids the handicapped, enabling them to become more independent." The organization created its first Board of Directors in 1986 and obtained a 501 c (3) tax exemption status in 1987. Jo Kiser was the first Executive Director. The group became registered at local, state and federal levels and began to expand its name and message throughout the country.

In 1989, the name of the organization was changed to Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. (ADAI). In 1989, ADAI moved its training headquarters to two and a half acres in Swanton, Ohio, about 29 miles west of Toledo. The owner of the land, Richard Ranson, donated half of the cost of the property and the Kiwanis of Downtown Toledo paid for the rest. The property includes office facilities, a training building and insulated, heated kennels with 20 indoor-outdoor runs. ADAI dogs have a beautiful, grassy “home” with attentive staff and volunteers.

In October of 2011, ADAI became Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence, A Program of the Ability Center.  The merger between Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. and the Ability Center of Greater Toledo has allowed both organizations the strength to fullfill their missions by reaching many more consumers and community members.


Happy Endings: Ginger and Fraiser

Ginger, who has Cerebral Palsy, found a true gentleman in her ADAI service dog, Fraiser, a Golden Retriever. Fraiser retrieves whatever Ginger drops, pushes access buttons to open doors, and even helps Ginger take off her coat. He’s her faithful companion on Ginger’s bus rides to and from her volunteer work at the Dayton Access Center and at home, he even helps with the laundry.