As summarized on their website, "Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships."
Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, there are six training centers and multiple chapters around the United States. Canine Companions breeds Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers then volunteer puppy raisers provide 14-18 months of basic obedience training and socialization. Next the dogs return to Canine Companions for specialized training before being partnered with their human companions and completing a final training program together. This 2-minute video gives a good summary of the process.
- Service dogs - assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks such as turning on lights, opening doors, pushing elevator buttons and pulling their partners in wheelchairs
- Hearing dogs - alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds like doorbells, alarm clocks and smoke alarms
- Skilled companions - bred to be calm and affectionate, these dogs work with adults and children under the guidance of a facilitator
- Facility dogs - work with a professional in a visitation, education or healthcare setting
Reading through the stories on the website illustrates how life changing a canine companion can be for both the people who train them and the people who rely on them. If you're in need of an assistance dog, there are online resources to determine which dog is right for you. If you live near a training center and are interested in being a puppy raiser you can learn more about what's required and request an application here.
Whether or not you're able to raise a puppy, you can support Canine Companions in their goal of helping children and adults with disabilities live more independent lives. Make a donation, join a DogFest Walk'n Roll event and show your love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ccicanine.