For Future Canine Companions Teams
CCI is the oldest assistance dog organization, placing 4 types of dogs free of charge. Learn more about the 4 types of dogs and how veterans can achieve life-changing independence as part of an assistance dog team.
Without the generosity of CCI, its volunteer puppy raisers, and many, many donors, partnerships would be out of reach for almost everyone who applies. The cost of training a puppy to be an assistance dog from 7 and 1/2 weeks of age through placement about 2 years later is $50,000. But recipients just have to worry about improving their handling skills and bonding with their new dogs. And that's incredible.
Be a part of exceptional dogs for exceptional people, like Patterson and me, and thousands of other teams united since Canine Companions for Independence began in 1975! Donate if you can, and share on Facebook and Twitter, too. Thank you so much, from me, and from the recipients already matched and the matches yet to be made.
Early this year, I applied for and received a scholarship to a Revision Retreat workshop through The Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Highlights Magazine for Children had a huge impact on me as a young child, so I was excited for the opportunity to work on the novel about a I had been writing about a ten-year-old girl and her CCI assistance dog. I received instruction from faculty members on strategies for revising, and got to know other writers and their projects. Of course, Patterson was by my side. It was a wonderful experience for both of us! He became the unofficial retreat mascot.
I continue to revise the novel. When it's ready, I will be submitting it to traditional publishers. If it's published traditionally, a much wider audience will learn about CCI's mission and how these highly trained dogs change lives every day. Funds raised through this campaign will be donated to CCI to help future teams come together.
If it's self-published through Outskirts Press, funds will cover the cost of publication and sales will be donated to CCI.
I will update as soon as I have more information. If you donated and have a question about how this change affects rewards, please private message me on Facebook. Thanks for your support!
But if you want to see me and Patterson, you can start at 01:46:06 and stop at 01:07:08. We Are Independence!
Even with the puppy raisers' over 17,000 hours of time, training, socialization, and deep love, not all the pups who start out as potential assistance dogs finish their formal training. Every puppy in training comes back to CCI with many skills to build on, but of those who begin training, only an average of 40% can be matched. Common reasons for release include an aversion to a certain task or situation, being hyperfocused, or displaying a willingness to work that falls short of the level of assistance a graduate recipient needs. Some release dogs become pets. Puppy raisers have first choice to adopt their puppy, and the $500 adoption fee is waived. There's also a growing (and often closed) waitlist of others who have applied to adopt a CCI dog.
But many use their carefully developed skills when they become Change of Career dogs. The August 2015 Jacksonville Puppy Outing Group Newsletter, compiled by puppy raisers C.J. and Vickie Smith, explains:
"These...[may also] become qualified to be pet therapy dogs at local Jacksonville Hospitals, nursing homes or rehab centers.
Pet therapy requirements in Jacksonville normally include passing a 6-week pet therapy course and passing the Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) test...
After 2 years of Canine Companions training, our pups do very well in these programs. These two programs will usually allow the handler/dog team access into almost all of Jacksonville hospitals or facilities...."
His puppy raisers, Laura Zinkil Gaboardi and Jim Rogers, gave me permission to share these photos. Pat will always be theirs too. He is absolutely incredible because of the wonderful intensive socialization they made every effort to provide. An ace traveler, a sweet, smiley boy, lover of children, our cat Piper, and the cuddle bone they gave us from his puppyhood. Raisers prepare the puppies for a variety of situations and teach them many commands required to advance to formal training.
And then, after 16 months of love and growth, the puppy raisers have to say goodbye. In our Team Training class, CCI told us that turn-in is a very hard time for puppy raisers. They want their puppy to make independence possible for a recipient as a highly trained assistance dog. But they are torn up. If the puppy finishes training, it is also bittersweet, because they meet the recipient and see the now-grown dog for the first time in at least six months.
My mother (who was my partner in Team Training) and I were trying to hold back tears and didn't manage to capture the joyous moment when Patterson saw Laura and Jim again. He was wild. He snorted like a horse. And that is how happy he makes me every day.
Laura and Jim are now raising their second puppy, whom Pat will meet at a mini-reunion in mid-September. Thank you both for doing it again for another recipient!
Here is a very short clip from CCI's August 2015 Southeast graduation. Dan talks about the experiences that led him to raise Dreyfus, and the indescribable reward of seeing his "puppy brother" grow into the perfect match for a recipient. Raise a puppy. Change a life.