By Steve Svetovich
William Torbeck and Kendra Lapsansky like to help others in need.
The Dunmore couple found their niche by fostering dogs.
Torbeck and Lapsansky were looking for a way to help others a few years back, while dealing with a problem of their own. Torbeck’s brother, Mark, was diagnosed with retina pigmentosa. He was gradually losing his eyesight and eventually went blind. Currently he resides in Florida accompanied by his guide dog.
“We wanted to do something to help others who were in a similar situation,” said Torbeck, a contractor at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
“So we decided to do something to help people like my brother.”
The Dunmore couple took in Mo, a yellow Labrador, from January 2016 to December 2016. The Labrador was raised and socialized by Torbeck and his wife for the entire year before ending up with Donna Hill, of Susquehanna County. Hill has the exact same diagnosis as Torbeck’s brother.
Currently, the Dunmore couple is keeping busy raising Colonel, a 15-month-old black Labrador. Torbeck and his wife, who works at the Veterinary Emergency Center, Chinchilla, have the dog from Friday night through Sunday night. The dog is with an inmate at the Dallas Correctional Institute during the week.
Colonel also has a trainer who is from Smithtown in Long Island. “He is with the trainer once a week in a classroom setting,” said Torbeck.
“We pick him up and have him Friday through Sunday. He gets structure in the prison and socialization skills on the weekend with us.”
The Dunmore couple helps Colonel learn how to open handicapped doors and buttons.
“It’s called a touch practice,” said Torbeck. “The dog will learn how to help the handicapped and wheelchair bound in these situations.
“He is seen outside with the public a lot. The most important thing he has to do is remain at my side at all times while outside with the public.
“Colonel is seen everywhere in Dunmore. I go everywhere with him. We go to games, coffee shops, restaurants, just about every place in Dunmore. That’s the protocol. It’s all about repetition. He is a future working dog.”
A fund raiser has been set for January 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Zummo’s Coffee Shop on Marion Street in Green Ridge. Torbeck said all proceeds will go to the America’s Veteran Dog Program.
“Colonel has been with us since February. We will have him until this January. He will then go through formal training for three or four months in Smithtown, Long Island. He will be reinforced on special things. After that, he will be matched with someone. Colonel will be working with a disabled person about three or four months after this January. He will be a guard for a specific handicapped person.
“Sure we will miss him, but my wife and I want to help make this world a better place. It’s not about us. It’s about helping others.”