Litter of Puppies Graduate To Honorable Lives As Service Dogs

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How do Service Dogs go from puppyhood to cape-wearing, super heroes? They go through intense training and only a select number of the puppies get to graduate to an honorable life of servitude. People with disabilities rely upon their service dogs to be able to lead independent lives, making these special canines heroes in disguise.

The nonprofit organization Canine Companions For Independence strongly believes in raising these service dogs for the benefit of disabled individuals of all ages. The immense help service dogs provide to their owners is indispensable. Friday, August 15th is national graduation day for the newest Canine Companions!

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Image copyright: Canine Companions for Independence®

Service Dogs Have Been A Part Of My Life For 24 Years

This amazing organization is very close to my heart and to OrnamentShop.com too! My name is Debbie and my Mom is Dianne, Owner of OrnamentShop.com. I am delighted to be a guest blogger and share with you my passion for CCI and let you know about their wonderful puppy graduation ceremonies for service dogs.

In 1990 my family was introduced to CCI service dogs after my brother, Don, had a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic. Knowing Don was going to have some physical limitations we started looking into organizations that would allow him to have more independence. His goal was to finish his senior year of college and go on to be a high school English teacher at his beloved prep school.

We attended our first graduation ceremony of service dogs in Delaware, Ohio and immediately knew we had found the perfect organization to provide a service dog for Don. CCI has 5 regions throughout the United State:

  • North Central Region (Delaware, Ohio)
  • Northeast Region (Medford, NY)
  • Northwest Region (Santa Rosa, CA)
  • Southeast Region (Ocala, FL)
  • Southwest Region (Oceanside, CA)
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Image copyright: Canine Companions for Independence®

These exceptional service dogs are taught over 40 commands, which allow them to be capable of picking up dropped items, opening doors, flipping light switches and many other helpful services. The biggest benefit of the commands is they enable a person with a disability to lead a life with more independence and not have to rely on asking others for help.

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The graduation ceremony of service dogs signifies the culmination of a focused two-week Team Training program. During this time both human and canine are trained to work together as a team. After a thorough evaluation, an adult or child with a disability or a person using the dog to help people with disabilities are officially matched. Seeing the smile on a person’s face when they are matched with their service dogs or skilled companions is a vision I will always remember.

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“Passing of the leash” from the puppy raisers to Don

My parents and I had no idea how emotional the graduation ceremony of service dogs would be. Should have brought some Kleenex! We were not prepared for the love and kindness that filled the room. Graduation is an amazing time for all involved in the process…from families to puppy raisers and recipients. To mark the official start of a long, unconditionally loving and valuable relationship, the volunteer puppy raisers of the service dogs that are graduating “pass the leash” to the new graduate, which symbolizes the transition from dogs-in-training to official service dogs. And their journey begins!

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In August 2011 Don was matched with his third service dog, Lorenzo III. Each CCI litter is named after a letter of the alphabet, so it was an “L” litter and there were two previous Lorenzo’s so he has the distinguished title of “the third”. Lorenzo was raised by the Baker Family as part of their son’s, Ben, 4-H project. It truly was a family effort and they have already raised another service dog for CCI. Funny fact about Lorenzo…he has a small black spot over one of his ears, which is representative of his dad who is a Black Lab while his mom is a Yellow Lab.

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Don, his wife Mary (L), me (R) and Lorenzo III on graduation day

Don is married to his wife Mary of 11 years and not only finished his senior of college, but went on to pursue a Masters Degree and PhD in Psychology. He has his own private practice working with children and families and also is the lead Psychologist at the county jail. Needless to say, Don and Lorenzo have very busy schedules and are a perfect team! As a sister I am so thankful for CCI and the raising of service dogs. The organization has added warmth to my heart and a wonderful opportunity for my amazing brother to gain invaluable independence. Plus, whenever anyone sees them together, a smile is always the first reaction.

Puppy graduation ceremonies for service dogs occur at least four times a year in each region. They are free and open to the public, so you can witness the emotional passing of the leash graduation ceremony for yourself and see the strong impact that service dogs make on their owners. If you are in any of the five regions, stop on in, and be rewarded to see these super heroes in action!

Image copyright: Canine Companions for Independence®

Image copyright: Canine Companions for Independence®

Commemorate your visit to a service dogs graduation ceremony with a personalized dog ornament that we can personalize with the graduation date and location! If you do attend, we’d love to hear about your experience!

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Note: Canine Companions for Independence is the first nonprofit organization that trains service dogs to perform tasks that help people with physical disabilities. Happily, CCI has graduated over 4,000 teams partnered, which represents the most teams graduated from an assistance dog program since 1975. To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence, apply for a service dog or learn about being a puppy raiser please visit www.cci.org

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