Mark Schaefer steers his power wheelchair to the refrigerator in the kitchen of his home in Latitude Margaritaville Hilton Head, his service dog Haver at his side.

“Pull,” he says, and Haver bites into a hefty rope hanging from the handle on the lower drawer, backs up, and the drawer opens. Shaefer is now able to get items from the drawer.

When he has gotten what he needs, he again speaks to Haver in a one-word command: “Push.” Haver nudges the drawer with her nose until it closes completely.

When Shaefer is ready to leave the house, he wheels toward the front door, which also has a rope dangling from the lever handle.

Again, with one-word commands, Haver can open the door and close it.

Shaefer received Haver in 2021 through the national nonprofit Canine Companions Service Dog organization, which provides service dogs to children, adults and veterans with disabilities at no charge to the recipient. Funds for programming comes from donations, grants and bequests.

The organization breeds Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds to become service dogs. Volunteer Puppy Raisers care for the pups in their homes, training them in basic obedience for 18 months.

The dogs then go to qualified instructors and are expertly trained to perform practical tasks that enhance independence and reduce an individual’s reliance on others. Each dog that graduates from the program will have mastered more than 40 commands in four to nine months. The dogs become the ears, hands and legs of their human partners.

There are six training centers across the U.S., including the Southeast Training Center in Orlando, Fla., where Haver was trained.

The process of an individual getting a service dog begins with an application and, if accepted, includes training for the person. In Team Training, several potential recipients meet with a group of trained dogs to match the dogs’ training with the individuals’ specific needs. As well, the program seeks to match temperaments and personalities of human and canine.

“Not only does Haver help me with tasks, but she has given me back the confidence that I had lost,” Shaefer said.

His wife, Joyce, said Haver has been a great companion for her husband, and a huge help. “Mark can handle most things in the house if I’m not here, but I used to worry what might happen if I wasn’t here and he needed something,” she said. “Haver is trained to attend to many of his needs. She has really helped him regain independence and peace of mind.”

Haver even knows how to call for help. “She knows how to activate the emergency alert flashers outside our house,” Mark said, “so if Joyce isn’t home and something happens, the neighbors will know something’s wrong and can help.”

“We were so impressed with the organization that we wanted to do something to give back,” Joyce said. “Thus, this golf tournament.” She is referring to Paws for a Cause Golf 2022, an inaugural tournament to benefit Canine Companions, that will kick off at 8 a.m. May 21 at Rose Hill Golf Club, 4 Clubhouse Drive in Bluffton.

Joyce is the event chair and has been collecting auction items, registering golfers and signing up volunteers from their community since early this year.

The event will include golf in a four-person scramble – carts included, lunch and an auction, along with an awards reception following play. Prizes will be given on various holes for longest drive, closest to the pin and others. Golfers will have a chance to win a BMW car lease with a hole in one.

Representatives from Canine Companions will be on hand as well, perhaps with dogs in their program.

Golfers can register as individuals, pairs or foursomes. Registration is $100 per person.

Non-golfers can register for lunch for $35 each.

for more information and to register, visit pawsforacausegolf2022.org or call Joyce Schaefer at 412-980-7986.

“Canine Companions is a fantastic organization to work with, and I feel very fortunate to have been matched with Haver,” said Mark Schaefer. “I’m very happy to have this chance to help give back to the organization.”