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.

May 2, 2014 2:37 PM ET

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Barbara Barrow
Executive Director
Canine Companions for Independence

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease that affects the nervous system, resulting in a wide range of life-altering symptoms over time. Those diagnosed quickly learn the value of a strong support system.

Connie and Service Dog Nadine
Connie and Service Dog Nadine

Connie relies on her husband, Rex, and her new best friend, Nadine, to help with her MS-related challenges. Nadine V is a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

Connie applied to Canine Companions after hearing about the benefits of assistance dogs from a friend who also has MS.  “She said having an assistance dog changed her life,” says Connie. A few months after receiving Nadine, Connie is reaping the same reward.

“Nadine gets me out of the house more,” explains Connie. The two-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever cross needs and enjoys exercise, which has made Connie more active. “With Nadine, I close my computer and decide whatever I’m doing can wait - which is very important because I’m fairly sedentary,” says Connie. “Nadine has presented a delightful opportunity for me to change that and get on a different horizon.” Exercise is particularly important to those living with MS since studies have shown that exercise can help MS symptoms like fatigue and depression.

Nadine is trained to help Connie by opening and closing doors and drawers, activating light switches and retrieving dropped objects. As Connie’s disease progresses, she will rely on Nadine for help with these practical tasks more and more. Right now, however, Connie is relishing the companionship Nadine offers.

“Rex and I lost our son eight years ago,” says Connie. “Nadine is beginning to fill that empty space in our hearts. We have fallen head over heels in love with this dog!”

Connie is one of 236 people with MS that have been partnered with Canine Companions assistance dogs nationwide. Like all of Canine Companions’ clients, Connie and Nadine graduated together after completing an intense, residential, two-week Team Training course.  During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. Thanks to Canine Companions’ generous supporters, the dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are provided free of charge.

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