Article 2539: Thriving with Service Dogs (imageid1)Buddy is a retired photo editor. Dani works in marketing. Therese is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University.

Although diverse in age and backgrounds, the three have a few things in common. They all have quadriplegia. They all live in San Diego County. And they all received service dogs from Canine Companions for Independence this past May.

Buddy, of Vista, was partnered with his previous service dog, Hillary III, for 10 years. “I thought a service dog would be a pet with better understanding of the rules,” Buddy recalls. “But it turned out to be so much more than that. I felt more comfortable going out in public. I had a partner wherever I went. It made me feel more secure. It kept me motivated to do more and more things. It energized me!”

Although Buddy’s grief about Hillary’s loss was profound, the benefits Buddy experienced convinced him to apply for a successor service dog. Buddy enjoyed getting to know his new dog Lexus IV as much as he enjoyed watching his classmates bond with their new assistance dogs during Canine Companions’ Team Training. “My most memorable moments were being around the newbies,” said Buddy. “Knowing what’s ahead for them was awesome!”

For Dani, of Carlsbad, getting a service dog meant “not having to negotiate my needs with asking for help.” Dani works full-time and is involved with a few disability-related organizations. Needless to say, she has refused to let her physical challenges slow her down. Still, Dani explains, “My disability is a huge challenge every second of every day. I’m not going to lie! It isn’t easy.”

This is where Service Dog Zandra III comes in. “Zandra picks up a lot of objects because I drop things quite often,” says Dani. “It’s a huge deal! It’s stressful for me to have to ask for help. I don’t like feeling like I’m imposing on people. Zandra makes me feel relaxed. She doesn’t see my disability. She’s a good friend.”

Therese, of La Mesa, is experiencing similar benefits. “I drop things on the floor probably 15 to 20 times a day,” she says. “It’s very difficult for me to get something off of the floor. What would take me 10 minutes takes Service Dog Haliwell about five seconds! She also turns on and off lights and gets things from the refrigerator. It’s mind blowing to see the capabilities of these dogs!”

Buddy, Dani and Therese graduated with their service dogs after completing an intense, residential, two-week Team Training course at Canine Companions’ Southwest Regional Center in Oceanside. During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. The dogs are trained in about 40 commands to help with everyday practical tasks before they are ready to graduate as 24/7 helpers. Thanks to Canine Companions’ generous supporters, the dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are provided free of charge.

Contributed by

Barbara Barrow

Canine Companions for Independence
Chief Development Officer
Barbara Barrow is the chief development officer of Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly …

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