CONCORDIA (KSNT)- A local woman is providing people with a companion who gives unconditional love, no matter who they are. Helping them with anything they need.

Before starting her business, Sarah Holbert had a hand in working with animals. She was a 4H dog project leader, teaching specific skills on how to handle and train pups who would one day be assistance animals.

“Then I got involved with being a foster puppy raiser for guide-dog schools,” Holbert said. “Canine Companions for Independence later on. That all started in the 80s.”

She found there was a need for service dogs in Kansas, as many dogs weren’t being sent to the state. A few years later, she was officially in business.

“CARES got started in 1994, and we placed our first dogs that same year,” she said. “And have been growing ever since.”

CARES Inc. stands for canine assistance rehabilitation education and services. The organization trains and raises puppies who will then be matched with people who need help with mobility, diabetes, or emotional support, and those who are living with PTSD.

“To me, they’re miracles,” Donna Baer said, a client of CARES. “Kendall was our first miracle, and I believe Benny is going to be a different kind of miracle.”

Ted and Donna Baer with their first CARES dog, Kendall

Donna Baer and her husband Ted Baer found out about the work Holbert and her team were doing a couple of years ago. Ted Baer is an army veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2015, they were matched with a dog.

Before any of the dogs can be placed in a home, the CARES team matches them with a family they’re fit for. If a dog is learning how to assist someone who is diabetic, then the dog will be paired with someone who is needing assistance in that area.

“Kendall made a night and day difference in my husband’s outlook,” Baer said.

Kendall has since passed away, however, Ted Baer’s needs haven’t been forgotten. That’s where Benny comes in. While he’s not taking the place of Kendall for the family, he’s just picking up where things left off. Being trained, and then graduating with the 115th CARES class.

“In life, we have a lot of storms that we go through,” Baer said. “To me, Benny is a rainbow. We’ve been through a storm, and now we have a rainbow.”

Benny, the Baer’s new CARES dog

These dogs are not just placed in homes in Kansas. They become family members to people across the country and all around the world. The Nov. 5 graduating class had veterans from Canada come all the way down to meet their perfect partner.

Sarah has been working for years to make sure people are supported with whatever they need, constantly finding ways to serve her community with these four-legged assistants.

“All of the people who come to CARES have a need, whatever their need is,” she said. “They want to be more independent. By giving them a companion that performs skills for them and gives them more independence and gives them unconditional love, what better way to go forward.”

Each litter that is raised by CARES has a theme. For example, some were named after Chiefs players, brands of teas, snacks, and even things to do in the water. One of the dogs from the water litter has been featured in our someone you should know segment.

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