Monday, August 15, 2016

Canine Companions for Independence

Long-time friends of ours have been participating in the CCI program for a number of years. Their role is puppy raiser. They take a puppy into their home for over a year, give it love and basic training, socialize it, and then return it to CCI for its advanced training to become a service dog for the disabled or the deaf (unlike Guide Dogs for the Blind, CCI dogs are not trained as seeing-eye dogs).

This past weekend, the fourth puppy raised by our friends "graduated" from advanced training, and after a couple of weeks in "team training," he was paired with Maria, an attorney who suffered a stroke and has limited motor control and uses a specialized wheelchair. Our friends are as proud as if the dog was their own offspring graduating from university.

DH and I went with them to the regional CCI headquarters in Santa Rosa, CA, last Saturday, where two events were being celebrated. About 50 puppies were being returned for advanced training and evaluation to be sure they would be good service dogs, and about 20 trained dogs were turned over to their new "teammates." The ceremony, at which several hundred humans and at least one hundred dogs were present, is held in an indoor, carpeted auditorium. (This venue has hosted CCI many times, so they are confident there will be no doggie accidents; in fact, not only no accidents, but also not one single bark!)

Part of the reason the dogs were so calm during the ceremony is that beforehand, most of the dogs were turned loose in the CCI playground to wear themselves out so they would be too tired to be excitable. DH and I spent an hour or so in the playground, and I must say I have never been around so many dogs that are so friendly and so well trained. It seemed as if every dog greeted every human at some point - a wag of the tail, a sniff, a snuggle for a pat or two. The only time I heard yelps or barks was when our friends' current puppy, who is only 4 months old but totally fearless, snatched a ball away from another dog. Charm (the puppy closest to the camera in the photo below) usually ended up at the bottom of a heap of larger, older dogs, no worse for wear. After being scolded, she would start the game all over again.

At one point, a number of dogs were given a "down!" command, and I was able to get one photo before the "release!" command was given.

All CCI dogs are either Laborador Retriever (dark or blond) or Golden Retriever, or a cross of the two. Both types of retriever have calm, loving temperaments and are very trainable.

Anyway, fun was had by all, and that's my plug for a very worthy organization.


Peg Cherre said...

I congratulate people like your friends who can do this. Training a puppy is hard work and very time consuming. Plus they make you fall in love with them. And then turning them over to do it all again? I know I don't have what it takes. Instead I'll be the person who'll adopt a senior dog, or a rescue dog with issues.

Alice said...

Fascinating post. I too have found that the Labs have calm temperaments, at least the few I've known.
Good organization.

Janet said...

Our granddaughter has a service dog--black, German shepherd. The training is amazing; Booth's patience is awesome. Booth has done wonders for our granddaughter.