It's doggie day care with an emphasis on care as family pets are loved and looked after by eager young adults learning how to run a business.

It's doggie day care with an emphasis on care as family pets are loved and looked after by eager young adults learning how to run a business.

Former Worthington special-education teachers Stephanie Sanzo and Megan Ramage will open the nonprofit Pathways to Independence of Central Ohio next month at 7020-D Huntley Road. The facility includes a working business -- Karma's Kennel Doggie Day Care -- inspired by Karma, a canine therapy dog who has sparked a lot of laughter, along with warm hugs, in Sanzo's classrooms at Kilbourne Middle School.

Designed to provide mentoring and job training for young adults with disabilities, the program is expected to have its grand opening Sept. 14.

"What excites me the most is incorporating dogs in our approach with our clients," Sanzo said. "Dogs are amazing creatures that bring out the best in everyone, those with and without disabilities."

Ramage had been a special-education teaching assistant for 20 years and Sanzo spent seven years teaching students with disabilities at Kilbourne, before both resigned earlier this month to open the job-training center.

"Stephanie and I worked together last year with autistic children," Ramage said. "We both had the idea to do something bigger and better for these kids. They were such special children and we worried about where they would go after graduating from high school."

Ramage said she initially wanted to open a bakery as a training business, but agreed with Sanzo on a dog day care, because of Karma.

"Someone had been allergic to dogs at Kilbourne, so we were not using Karma as much as we wanted to, so we wanted bigger and better things for her, too," she said.

Ramage coaches the annual Special Olympics basketball game at Kilbourne.

"I saw kids coming back to play the game who were not really kids anymore -- some were 25 and 30 years old," she said. "They found temporary work here and there, but many of them needed more mentoring and job training."

She said the dog day care could provide that training.

"Our interns will be learning all aspects of running a business and our end goal is for them to have meaningful, good-paying jobs in the community doing something they love," she said.

Sanzo said she has worked with young adults with disabilities for 12 years.

"It always amazes me when I see the hidden talents of each individual," she said, "which made me question, 'Why do they have such a difficult time finding employment after high school?'

"The reason is that it takes a person-centered approach to use each individual's strengths and interests to their advantage to build a career around something that they love," she said. "Just like everyone else, individuals with disabilities want to be doing something they are passionate about and enjoy."

On their website, pathways2 independenceohio.org, Ramage and Sanzo state, "In Ohio, there are more than 30,000 working-age adults with developmental disabilities who receive adult services. The vast majority of these services are provided in segregated settings. According to the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, only 24 percent of working-age adults in Ohio currently receive integrated employment services."

Both women went out on a limb to open the facility, using personal savings after initially raising $5,000, mostly from friends and family. They eventually will be reimbursed for each individual's job training as a provider for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and Employment First.

Karma's Kennel Doggie Day Care will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Ramage said the facility has "4,000 square feet of fun for dogs" with separate areas for large and small dogs, as well as outdoor space for dogs to get fresh air and "do their business."