Canine Companions Article

 

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.

SERVICE DOG CHANGES LIFE OF MAN WITH PARAPLEGIA
April 11, 2014 2:11 PM ET

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Barbara Barrow
Executive Director
Canine Companions for Independence

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(50PlusPrime.com) OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA --

"Getting a service dog is one of the biggest life-changing events that a person with a disability can have," says Glen. He knows.

Glen and Kalea
Glen and Kalea

Kalea, the black Labrador/Golden Retriever cross by Glens side, is his second service dog provided free of charge from Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions 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. Kalea is a gift for which Glen is extraordinarily grateful.

Glens first service dog, Miss Bo, made an indelible mark on his life. Paralyzed since age 15, Glen was in his late 40s when he was partnered with Miss Bo. "I wish I had pursued getting a service dog many years ago," he says. "It's an absolute miracle in life to be partnered with one of these dogs."

Kalea now helps Glen daily, just like Miss Bo did. "Kalea pulls me in the wheelchair, she opens and closes doors, picks things up off of the floor that I drop and carries things when I go shopping," explains Glen. "Kalea's my partner. Her efforts really help me out and it saves a lot of energy."

It can be difficult for people to understand the bond between people with disabilities and their service dogs, but Glen is always eager to share his experience and how impactful it has been. "Canine Companions assistance dogs are ready, willing and able to work for you and they actually enjoy doing it," says Glen. "Their tails are always wagging and they're a pleasure to be with. These dogs are magic in how they improve your outlook on life."

Glen also believes his assistance dogs have made him more approachable to others. "Before Miss Bo, people never approached me," says Glen. "Maybe they wanted to but just didn't know how. Having a dog is an icebreaker because its a commonality among a lot of people."

Still, reaping the benefits of an assistance dog requires hard work to learn the commands and handling skills. Even Glen, who had worked with an assistance dog in the past, experienced a learning curve when he began training with Kalea. "It's like learning a new foreign language," Glen said. "Kalea knows over 40 commands and I'm only at 30 right now! As we get to know each other more, well learn each others language. Over time, well work together like were dancing together."

Indeed, a couple months later the pair seems perfectly choreographed.

To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence, visit www.cci.org.

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