January 14, 2014

Canine Companions

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon lecture and the topic was the Canine Companions for Independence and it was fascinating. Especially being the owner of a dog who, at age 13, has yet to distinguish between “sit” and “speak”. There were three Yellow Labs at the lunch, two were still youngsters, less than two years old, and the other, Mahler, was eight. He’d been the companion of a woman since he was two. She’s confined to a wheelchair much of the time, and her dog has helped her become independent.CCI

The group exclusively uses Labrador Retrievers for their work, and they are given to volunteer “puppy raisers” when they are eight weeks old, and their training begins. image

They live with a “raiser” until they are almost two, and then they return to CCI for some final training. My first question was trying to understand how someone could raise a puppy and then give it away. One of the volunteers (and they are all volunteers) explained to me that it was like raising a child and then sending him off into the world to do a job. One of the people at the lunch was raising his 11th puppy for the program.image

After the training is complete, the dogs are matched with their people and they complete two intensive weeks of training. At the end of this time, the dogs know at least 50 commands, if not more, and are socialized to all situations. The dogs graduate from the program, the puppy’s family says good-bye and the new companion takes over. image

The woman who had Mahler told us stories of the things he could do. When she goes grocery shopping in her specialized vehicle, the dog goes with her. When they get home, he takes the bags of groceries out of the car and into the house and puts them on the counter. He can help with the laundry, although he can’t separate the lights and darks, and he pulls her in her wheelchair. The most amazing thing was watching her drop a dime on the carpet and seeing Mahler pick it up and put it in her hand.

For more information on this amazing group, which doesn’t charge the “end-user” a penny, please check out their website.image I almost wish that I had taken Connor with me, so he could have seen these great dogs and maybe gotten a little inspiration.

22 comments:

  1. Something about this just makes me so teary...God I love those doggies.

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    1. They showed a video to the group and there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

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  2. I once met one of these highly trained dogs. She was an incredible dog.

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  3. I think Connor would have been an inspiration to these wonderful dogs. "Look, guys, 13 and still truckin'. Remember, there's nothing like a good shoe sniff to brighten your day."

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    1. He could hang out with the retired service dogs!

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  4. My heart is in a little puddle right now. Is there anything more miraculous or noble then the love and support of our dogs?

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    1. It was so terrific to see the bond between the humans and the dogs.

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  5. What a wonderful cause to be part of at every level including our canine friends !

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    1. I was so lucky to experience this fun event!

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  6. I love my Jones, but I can't quite envision him bringing in the groceries without sampling them.
    Dog's are God's gifts to us "silly" humans.

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    1. I can't see Connor making the effort to pick up a dime.

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  7. let's hear a round of applause for all labs! + they are soooo smart. Great Post. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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    1. they got a big round of applause at lunch!

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  8. I think yellow labs are so beautiful. And when I see a yellow lab service dog, it always melts my heart. One of my fond memories was watching Westminster Kennel Club honor the working dogs of 9/11. Seeing first the beautiful and the prissy next to the working/therapy dogs just made me cry. The look in their eyes: always "on duty", deep, soulful grace.

    I think Connor does just fine as a love object which is its own way of being a therapy dog!

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    1. I love their eyes. Always so serious and deep.

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  9. I'm always so amazed when I see these working dogs out in public. So well behaved and working so hard; people should train their children so well ;-)

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  10. Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a 501(c)(3) founded in 1975, national, not-for-profit, organization that breeds, trains and places assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, other than blindness. There is no cost to the recipient for the dog, training, or follow-up work. CCI is the largest and oldest assistance dog organization in the United States and is recognized for the quality and longevity of its placements. CCI also provides its highly-trained assistance dogs to veterans with physical disabilities, and active duty military personnel and military hospitals, at no cost to the recipient.

    CCI places four types of assistance dogs:
    Service Dogs for adults over the age of 18 with disabilities.
    Skilled Companion Dogs for children between the ages of 5-18 with an adult – usually a guardian or a parent—and adults with emotional, developmental or physical disabilities that need help of a training assistant or guardian.
    Hearing Dogs for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
    Facility Dogs for professionals to help promote healing and facilitate therapy for patients, students or residents in their care.
    Canine Companions serves people with a wide range of disabilities.

    Simultaneously to training of the dogs is the applicant process. First step is to submit a written request for an application. Upon receipt, a person is sent a 16 page application to complete, followed by a telephone interview at which time any questions are able to be answered. Next is an in-person interview at the training facility at which time the applicant handles dogs to determine their handling capability. All this occurs before being accepted onto the wait list.

    Donate now: Your gift makes a big impact. www.cci.org
    It's your generous donation that allows us to offer highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing follow-up services to people with disabilities at absolutely no charge.
    Donate now to transform our pups into life-changing assistance dogs. All we need is you!

    Link - https://www.kintera.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.8756547/k.2CD2/Donate_Now/apps/ka/sd/donor.asp?c=cdKGIRNqEmG&b=8756547&en=4nLxFFPfH3JGJPPiF2KDIMPtEnKSJUMnG6LBLLMpEbIELSOEF

    To order you estate planning kit, call Dave Bonfilio, national planned giving officer, at 1-866-CCI-DOGS (1-866-224-3647) or email pginfo@cci.org

    The Capital Chapter of Canine Companions for Independence thanks you for the interest in the program. www.cci.org

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  11. Marvelous work done by this group! I'd like to think they get to cut to the front of the line when St. Peter says "Next!".

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