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.

June 2, 2014 2:13 PM ET

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Barbara Barrow
Executive Director
Canine Companions for Independence

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Canine Companions for Independence Provides Service Dogs Free of Charge

John and Service Dog Oro
John and Service Dog Oro

John was born with dwarfism. His disability has meant a lifetime of mobility-related challenges.  It isn’t necessarily easy to live in a world designed for someone taller. Over the years, John has turned to Little People of America for help and advice in facing those daily challenges. Until recently, it never occurred to him to explore other resources.

Then, John met a volunteer for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities. The idea of applying for a service dog took root.

Recently, John was matched with Service Dog Oro III, a yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross. “I am 54 years old and I’ve used crutches to get around all my life,” explains John. “I didn’t realize how important Oro’s help would be in my day to day activities.  I’m not as agile as I used to be and now I have Oro to help me open and close doors, turn the lights on and off and picks up things I drop.  I’m even training him to tug the laundry basket from my room to the laundry room!”

Knee issues and arthritis have slowed John down over the years and, now, if he has to go more than 10 blocks he uses a scooter. It’s a great comfort for John to have Oro by his side no matter what. “It has been fun to take care of each other,” says John. “Oro goes everywhere I go. Words cannot express the bond and companionship we have. It has been one of the best experiences of my life.  Oro has changed my life for the better!”

John and Oro graduated together after completing an intense, residential, two-week Team Training course at Canine Companions for Independence in Oceanside, California. During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. The dogs are trained for two years prior in approximately 40 commands before they are ready to become 24/7 helpers. Thanks to Canine Companions’ generous supporters, the dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are provided free of charge.

Call (800) 572-BARK or visit to apply for an assistance dog, volunteer or donate.

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