The first service dogs were introduced in Germany in the 1920s for war veterans who lost their eyesight.
In 2000, Jane Boake founded Canine Opportunity, People Empowerment (COPE) near Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
Before founding COPE, Jane trained with Dr. Bonnie Bergin, who developed the concept of a Service Dog assisting people with mobility impairments, in 1975. In 1991, Dr. Bergin founded the Assistance Dog Institute which is now the Bergin University of Canine Studies.
Bergin University of Canine Studies educates and researches ways to “help dogs help people”, and teaches participants about all aspects of the Service Dog industry.
Since 1999, when Jane completed her training there, two more COPE Instructors have graduated from Bergin University and continue to “help students, help dogs to help people” here at COPE Service Dogs.
In 2003, five students from Stayner Collegiate spent their summer holiday working with the first litter of COPE service dogs–in-training in Jane’s basement. This was the birth of COPE’s High School Assistance Dog Program, now called Canines in the Classroom.
The first high school class was established at Stayner Collegiate in 2004, in collaboration with then-principal, Jean Hargreaves. Jean understood the benefits of the program to both the students and the community and provided the support to establish this program.
Since this time students in Collingwood, Stayner, Innisfil, Alliston and Barrie have benefitted by the Canines in the Classroom and Reading Buddy programs.
In recognition of her work in developing the COPE organization and the impact of this unique program, Jane Boake received the Order of Ontario in 2010.
COPE is working towards their future goal of developing chapters in other communities, and expanding the range of disabilities that may be supported by COPE Service Dogs.