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Service dog still in training meets CMP workers sponsoring his journey

Central Maine Power will fund Edison's two-year training to become a service dog. Mission Working Dogs trains dogs for veterans and civilians.

PORTLAND, Maine — Trucks come in and out of Central Maine Power's facility on Canco Road in Portland all day long, but it's not often they get a truckload of puppies.

Christy Gardner, a U.S. Army Police veteran, is the founder of Mission Working Dogs. It's a company that trains service dogs for civilians and other veterans. 

"In general, they're taught to pick up their leash if you drop it. They're taught to hand it to you, things like that," Christy Gardner said. "Once they get to a year old, they're mature enough to really start working on their task work."

Central Maine Power is covering the cost of one of those service dogs in training, which allows the company naming rights and the chance for employees to spend some time with the dog and learn more about the training.

"We sponsored Edison, and he's now the cutest member of our CMP family," Katie Yates, community relations manager at CMP, joked. "We actually had a vote and had a company meeting and had a couple of different names picked out. And Edison is the one that won."

It's unclear what Edison's role will be in a few years, but for now, visits like these at CMP are only helping with his training. 

"Socializing is really about the environment, so getting them used to the trucks, getting them used to the bay noises, getting them used to anything you hear at the mall. We do a lot of sporting events, so you have the crowd noises, the food noises, and there's so many different sounds. And if you can desensitize them to that, we call them bombproof," Gardner said. 

Credit: NCM

According to The National Service Animal Registry, the upfront cost of a service dog can be $15,000-$30,000. With 53 service dogs in training, the people behind Mission Working Dogs in Lewiston appreciate corporate sponsorships to help cover some of those costs. 

Of course, the partnership is mutually beneficial. 

"Central Maine Power has a long tradition of supporting veteran-led organizations and organizations that support veterans. So, Mission Working Dogs fits right into that," Yates said. 

So the workers get a break and a little puppy therapy while the company expands its reach beyond power lines and service grids.

"He will go on to provide critical services to our community members, and I can't wait to see his training progress over the next couple of months, [as well as] the way that Christy's team can grow Mission Working Dogs with the expansion of their training center," Yates said. 

Mission Working Dogs is hoping to open its $1.2-million training facility in Oxford sometime over the summer. To learn how to support the company's efforts, click here

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