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The Twins, Lois & Linda

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Former Wantagh Resident Trains Service Dogs in Memory of ‘Carmichael’

Linda Palminteri takes part in “Puppy Love Program” at Virginia retirement community a month after death of sister’s guide dog.

Former Wantagh resident Linda Palminteri with guide dog Joanie she is working with at her Atlantic Shores retirement community in Virginia in memory of her sister’s guide dog Carmichael that passed away last year.

It’s been said that timing is everything, and former Wantagh resident Linda Palminteri certainly saw this phrase come to life in 2011.

Just a month after her sister’s guide dog died, Palminteri agreed to take part in a program that trains service dogs.

The “Puppy Love Program” has brought Palminteri’s Virginia retirement community, Atlantic Shores, and the guide dog school, Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), together to help train puppies so that they may go on to help others. Palminteri joined the program in October of 2011, just a month after Carmichael, her sister’s service dog, passed away.

“The timing on this was pretty remarkable,” Palminteri said. “So I agreed to do this in memory of Carmichael.”

Palminteri’s twin sister, Lois, has muscular dystrophy, and Carmichael was with her for 16 years.

“He really did protect her,” Palminteri said. “He was a tremendous companion for her and when you get to see all of that, then this is very easy to do.”

Unlike some puppy raisers and trainers, Palminteri was able to experience the difference a service dog made in someone’s life.

“Most people don’t get to see when the dog is actually placed with someone,” she said. “The rewards are just tremendous. Carmichael was able to turn on light switches and pick up whatever she dropped.”

Lois wrote about the adventures she and Carmichael went on, illustrating the close bond between the two. “If Carmichael could have talked,” she wrote. “I would have been in big trouble.”

The story ended with Lois writing about Carmichael’s passing saying, “I’ll have a broken heart forever and will miss Carmichael dearly.”

Since Palminteri saw the profound impact Carmichael had on her sister, she welcomed Joanie, a female black Labrador from New York into her home at Atlantic Shores. Since October, Palminteri, along with fellow Atlantic Shores residents and volunteers from GEB, have been working with Joanie on basic training such as house manners and walking on a leash.

Palminteri, along with the other volunteers, are taking part in this crucial step of training Joanie, and another Black Labrador, Godrick. The puppy raisers and volunteers focus on basic obedience and socialization.

The program has also partnered with two local elementary schools to further the socialization of the puppies and to educate students about the value of the service these dogs will eventually provide.

Although Palminteri has enjoyed working with the program, she says there are some challenges.

“We train twice a week and we go to schools to visit,” she said. “I also take Joanie every week over to assisted living to visit, so it’s a very time consuming commitment.”

By taking part in this program and honoring Carmichael’s memory, Palminteri hopes that Joanie can someday help others in the way that Carmichael helped her sister.

“Carmichael touched so many lives,” she said. “The bank, the food stores, all the children in the neighborhood, they all knew Lois as ‘the lady with the dog.’ My hope for Joanie is that she becomes exactly that.”

For more information on Linda Palminteri’s work with Joanie and the “Puppy Love Program” visit http://atlshoresliving.hosting.gdstage.net/blog/ for the former Wantagh resident’s ongoing Dog Blog.