Crystal Gavel Awards

Crystal Gavel Awards

Gwendolyn P. Harmon practices at the Baton Rouge office of Phelps Dunbar in the areas of commercial litigation, environmental litigation, environmental regulatory, first party insurance coverage; homeowners and commercial disputes. She was selected to receive a 2013-14 Crystal Gavel Award for her noteworthy volunteer efforts with Canine Companions for Independence.

In 2002, Ms. Harmon and her husband began their rewarding commitment to serve as puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). CCI is a non-profit organization that places assistance dogs free of charge with adults and children with disabilities. CCI places dogs in the following roles: Assistance Dog, Skilled Companion (placed with children or adults with caregivers), Hearing Dog, and Facility Dog. They are currently raising their fifth puppy for CCI, a Lab /Golden Retriever mix named Tater.

As volunteer CCI puppy raisers, the Harmon’s are responsible for all the puppy’s needs during the year and a half the puppy resides with them. Ms. Harmon sends monthly progress reports on the puppy and attends obedience training with the puppy at least twice a month. Once the puppy is reliably potty trained and old enough to behave in public, they begin socializing the puppy to get him accustomed to the environments he will experience as a service dog. When the puppy is about 18 months old the Harmon’s take him to the CCI Southeast Region Campus in Orlando for CCI advanced training. At that time CCI evaluates the dog and professional trainers begin training him for Assistance, Skilled Companion, Hearing or Facility work. Advanced training lasts 6-12 months depending on the dog. There are also 12 basic training programs in prisons across the country, and Ms. Harmon is credited with being instrumental in getting Dixon Correctional Institute involved in the puppy program.

Ms. Harmon’s fourth puppy, Farlie graduated CCI’s advanced training in May 2011. Farlie was placed as a skilled companion for Malik, a nine year old boy with Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Ms. Harmon flew to Orlando, met Malik and his family and formally turned Farlie’s leash over to them at CCI graduation held at Sea World. Malik’s family has kept in touch; Ms. Harmon says the difficulty of raising these dogs from a baby to a young adult and then giving them up vanishes every time she learns of another milestone Malik has accomplished with the help of the beloved Farlie.

“Gwen is an outstanding volunteer and a stellar example of the caliber of attorneys in Louisiana as she balances a demanding practice while striving to help others,” says Ann K. Gregorie, Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Bar Association.

Ms. Harmon earned her law degree from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center.

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