Zachary Pezzillo, currently an eighth-grader at Seabury Hall School in Makawao, has helped raise and train six service dogs over the past five years for disabled people in his community.
When Zachary, who was raised in a strongly volunteer-minded family, first learned about Hawaii Canines for Independence (HCI), “the program seemed like a great opportunity to work with animals and people and to make a difference in the world,” he said.
Each time Zachary gets a puppy from HCI, he takes care of it for a year, teaching it obedience skills, housebreaking habits, and nearly 100 commands. He also spends a lot of time socializing the puppy by taking it to stores, movies, restaurants, and even to school. At the end of the year, Zachary presents the dog in a formal graduation ceremony to its new owner, and helps teach the owner how to handle the dog.
“It is hard to say goodbye when the dogs have been such a big part of my life,” said Zachary. However, when Zachary sees how much the service dogs change the lives of those they are helping, he says he knows what he is doing is important.
Zachary also volunteers at a veterinary clinic, cares for foster puppies and kittens at the Maui Humane Society, and spent several days last summer volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Utah.