Tuesday, July 19, 2011

4-H Class

Tonight we ventured East to the facility training center for our region's CCI chapter. This was our third visit, but first visit to the 4-H club that is directed as an extension of CCI. I was told tonight's class was a fairly large turn-out of members; they finally were "all in town" this summer week to attend class. It made for an interesting observation.

Once again, we were with out a dog, but there was an extra to spare and my son was quick to accept the offer of the leash. My daughter elected to not take a turn, she (like I) enjoys learning through observation until we have a dog assigned to us full time. The dog my son worked with was a released dog from the program - so she had all the smarts from CCI training, but did not graduate from the advanced training school.

Each time we attend class we learn, and tonight's message was clear. There is a great and real need for service dogs in our communities. The unique aspect of this 4-H class is the membership is open to children of all ages who are a CCI Puppy Raiser, and those who are Handler's of a CCI graduate.
There was a young child who was challenged in walking, among other disabilities. Her mother's arms held her under both of her daughter's armpits, with the leash of their Service Dog grasped in one hand that walked beside them. The daughter gripped the dog's harness that was attached to his back for stability. While I don't know the specifics, it was clear that the dog was assisting the child in walking. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. One day, she will have independence from her mother. One day, her dog will walk her in and out of the 4-H club meeting and beyond.

Another woman sat next to me observing the class. She leaned over to introduce herself. She shared that her daughter was a 4-H Club Officer, and pointing to the dog her daughter held by leash, she confidently said, "That was my son's Service Dog. He has passed away. That dog is now our pet, but my daughter continues to bring the dog to 4-H." 
I can't help but think that when she hugged and squeezed her son's dog, or when she watches that dog maneuver through class, that she feels a connection with her son. Her son should be by that dog as that dog was his graduated Service Dog. She shared how she went to the CCI campus for two weeks with her son to be trained together with this dog. Now he's no longer with her, but his canine of independence is there as his legacy, providing her perhaps strength, peace, smiles. Beautiful.
This isn't about puppies. This is about caring for the challenges that real people face - starting the journey to improve quality of life - sharing in the sorrows and joys of living. Making connections. Making a difference. Learning. Growing. Feeling. Sharing. This is what I am learning about volunteering our time and energy and thoughts while being linked with Canine Companions for Independence.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An example

I found this article and thought it spoke volumes as to why we have chosen Canine Companions for Independence as our families outreach program. Although there is no evidence that the dog mentioned in the article was trained by CCI, it is an example of the types of Service Dogs that graduate from the CCI program.


To help a child regain independence with safety is valuable, and priceless. Our family wants to be part of changing lives for those with health challenges. Not every dog in CCI will graduate and be placed with a Handler, but we will try our best to get our first pup to graduation. Either way, a graduate or a career change, we will learn valuable life lessons as a family.