The Road to Rio

The U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team is in the midst of training for the Paralympic Games that will take place in Rio September 7-18, 2016. This year is bringing a lot of excitement to the team, including the team’s unique assistant — Canine Companions Facility Dog Morrow II. Morrow has been a true companion and helper to the team for almost nine years.

Marrow at the bow

After observing the Paralympic sailors with their pets, the team’s coach Betsy saw the potential that a team dog could act as a stress reducer and psychological motivator for athletes. She consulted with several sports psychologists who agreed. In May 2007, she added a new member to the sailing team when she graduated from Canine Companions with Morrow, an exceptional facility dog.

The team includes nearly 20 athletes with disabilities. Many have spinal cord injuries of varying severity and about half the members use wheelchairs. Betsy notices that when sailors make errors or perform poorly on the water they often internalize the stress and their mental state suffers. “Morrow provides stress reduction. You can’t help but smile at his unconditional love and regain a positive outlook,” says Betsy.

US Paralympic Sailing Team

Thanks to his training at Canine Companions, Morrow can assist the sailors with tasks like picking up dropped tools and carrying life jackets and dry bags. Morrow is a constant professional. He is unperturbed by common sounds aboard the coach boat. Air horns, whistles, wave action or shouted greetings from other boats don’t distract him in the slightest.

“Morrow has been more of a physical and emotional support to the athletes than anyone anticipated. Physically, Morrow picks up out of reach items, carries athlete bags and gear, and even assists with docking the boats by bringing fenders to the sailors. Emotionally, Morrow has been a training constant for the athletes who must often travel away from home, leaving their support systems to attend camps and competition,” shares Betsy.

Marrow and friend

We can’t wait to cheer on the team in September! Best of luck to all of them.

Read more graduate stories at

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6 Tips to Keep Your Pup Healthy & Happy During the Holidays

holiday_greetingsThe holidays are happening and you know what that means?  Family and friends, parties and play, gifts and goodies and much, much more! This is a wonderful and exciting time of year, but we all know it can sometimes bring anxiety for our favorite pups. Take some time to read our top six tips to help keep your pet happy, relaxed and safe this year.

1. Tire your pup out before visiting or receiving holiday guests. Keep in mind that holiday visits are not typical visits. They may involve heightened energy, since often we haven’t seen these people in a while, and dog people have a tendency to get excited around others’ dogs. A dog is more likely to behave if it’s just had a nice long walk. If they’re not dog people, your guests may be nervous, insecure and unsure; a tired dog can help these people relax.

2. Be aware of dangerous holiday items. The festive poinsettia causes dogs to vomit. Chocolate is a poisonous treat. And tinsel has sent many a dog to the emergency room as it can easily cut up intestines.  For a list of dangerous holiday plants, visit Don’t allow animals to drink Christmas tree water – it can be harmful as well.

3. Human goodies are no good for your pup. Keep food and other treats away from your dog or puppy as it can cause upset tummies and other issues. Maintain a regular feeding schedule and remind your guests that scraps and “hand outs” should not be given to your pets.

4. Cold weather is hazardous. De-icing products, salt and ice can get into fur and paws causing skin irritation or more serious conditions.  Thoroughly wipe your dog’s paws and tummy when he comes in from the cold and snow.  Take care to wipe up any spilled antifreeze – dogs love the sweet (but deadly) taste.  Better yet, consider using animal-friendly antifreeze products.  Balls of ice between a dog’s toes can be painful.  For some of the longer coated dogs, trimming the hair between the toes and pads will help, and of course, keep those nails short too.

5. Holidays are exhausting! Provide your pup with a quiet and warm area so everyone can have a break when needed.  A large comfortable crate is the perfect place for your pup to rest and feel secure.

6. Exercise is good for all. Take your pup out for a stroll around the block. Enjoy your neighbors’ holiday lighting, take in the fresh air and burn off some of those holiday calories! It’s a win/win.

Wishing everyone a very happy and safe holiday season. Thank you for your support and dedication to our mission.

For more information on Canine Companions for Independence, visit

Sleeping Holiday Pup


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Raising a Hero Litter Puppy

Last Friday was special. It was hard and emotional, but it was certainly special. It was the day the volunteer puppy raisers of the Eukanuba-sponsored Hero Litter returned their puppies to Canine Companions to begin professional training.

The puppy raisers knew what they were signing up for. They knew they would bond and fall in love with the puppies they were raising. They knew it would be so very difficult to give back the amazing and wonderful dogs they’d raised in the hopes that they would fulfill their purpose of becoming life-changing assistance dogs.

Our puppy raisers are often asked, “How can you ever give them back?” It’s a simple question with a complex answer. We asked the Hero Litter puppy raisers to share a little bit about their puppy raising experience and why they do what they do.

“I believe it is a privilege and an honor to be able to raise any Canine Companions puppy,” shares Sue, Hala’s puppy raiser. “I am proud of Hala and myself for all we have accomplished in the last 18 months. Believe me, the emotions were high and many tears were shed, but I am looking to the future and what amazing things she will do. I know Hala will give it her all and no matter what happens, she will make a difference in someone’s life!”



“Raising Harpo was so much fun! It was so rewarding to watch her grow from a silly little puppy to a strong, confident and still silly big dog. We wish her all the luck in professional training and know she’ll make us proud!”



“Hudson was such a blessing to us,” says Diesta, Hudson’s puppy raiser.  “He loved to learn and would respond so wonderfully to praise; his tail seemed to always be wagging and he just exuded happiness! While on outings, people constantly commented on his demeanor.  The past 18 months were so exciting for us, as we were able to share the growth and continued success of our pup. We will certainly miss him, as he made us smile every day…and he was always smiling back.”



Holly’s puppy raiser Donna says, “The very day I picked up Holly, our adventures began. She had such a spirit and a never-ending curiosity of ‘what’s next?’  Holly made us smile, laugh and just as important, she made us proud.” Donna continues, “We are so appreciative of Eukanuba for sponsoring the Hero Litter and their longtime support of Canine Companions for Independence. I’m truly honored to have been part of all this.”

Holly and Hoagy

Holly and Hoagy

Hoagy’s puppy raiser Julie says, “There were endless trainable moments! Hoagy was always learning, growing and mastering a task.  It was so much fun!” She continues, “There was also love. Hoagy always wanted to please.  He had a very strong desire to nurture and shared so much love with us. We will miss him so much and there is a deep sense of loss. The bond that developed between our family and Hoagy was very strong and I continually had to remind my family of his purpose. I am so proud to have helped Hoagy on his journey towards becoming a Canine Companions assistance dog.”

Thank you for the dedication and love of our mission. We are so proud of all the dogs!

Take a look at the video below to see the journey of the Hero Litter.

Watch our graduation ceremonies from last week.

Make a donation in honor of the Hero Litter.

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Now Casting!

A new commercial for Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort is sure to tug at your heartstrings. The ad features families enjoying special times at the theme parks and an adorable dog wearing a blue vest interacting with Pluto! Yes, that beautiful dog is a Canine Companions graduate dog named Normandy. Joe Rand, a member of the Southeast Region Board and the vice president of Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group, called the Southeast Region looking for real stories for this campaign called “Unforgettable Happens Here.” Emma Anderson and her father Mark immediately came to mind. Emma, who was born with spina bifida, received Normandy from Canine Companions in August 2012, and he has already created many “unforgettable moments” in her life. Emma is in fifth grade and when she makes her way out of bed in the IMG_1542morning for school he is always there to help with the covers, to help pull up her socks, and if she drops her toothbrush he’s there to scoop it up. But more than anything else he’s helping Emma inch her way even closer towards independence.

The casting process happened quickly and within five days Mark, Emma and Normandy traveled from their home in Orlando to the backlots of the Hollywood Studios theme park at Walt Disney World. Professional hair artists went to work on Emma’s beautiful red hair and Mark went through several costume changes and each had a lighting test before they all headed out for the shoot. What an “unforgettable moment” for Mark, Emma and Normandy as Pluto came into the scene and began to interact with Normandy. The 30-second commercial is currently airing all around the country.

Walt Disney World and Canine Companions for Independence have a lot in common. Our work revolves around making memories and is an important part of the lives of many families and we are proud to be a part of “Unforgettable Happens Here.”

Click here to watch more of our videos.

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Love Letters to the Hero Litter

It’s amazing how quickly 18 months goes by when you’re loving, training and caring for a Canine Companions puppy. The early days of sleepless nights and chewed up toys quickly turn into trips to the local library and perfecting “sit” and “down.” The funny and uncoordinated pup has grown into a strong and confident dog who knows how to climb steps with ease, stay focused in any situation and is ready for the professional training it takes to become a life changing assistance dog. The Hero Litter is ready for this next part of their journey and will be returning to Canine Companions Training Centers in November.

While the pup may be prepared and ready for this transition, the volunteer puppy raiser often is not. These generous and unselfish people have fallen in love with the dogs and it is usually with tears they say goodbye. The love letters that follow were written by the puppy raisers of the Eukanuba-sponsored Hero Litter. They are full of hope, joy and so much pride.


Dear Hala,
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.” ― Tom Bodett   
You have given me all this and more every day! You are so full of life! You are loving and comforting, and a joy to have by my side. My hope is you can be this for someone else too!
Love, Sue



Dear Harpo,
We knew we’d love our new puppy but didn’t realize just how much! You have brought so much laughter and love to our lives. You are truly a special and very funny dog. 
Much love, Erin and Chris



Dear Harvest,
You will be dearly missed. You have provided me, and those who are lucky enough to know you, an endless amount of joy. You have grown to be a wonderful dog that is confident, intelligent, playful and ALWAYS happy. 
Your proud puppy raiser, Maggie



Dear Holly,
When we got you at 8 weeks old, we looked for your angel wings – the lighter line of fur that falls along your shoulders. My job as your volunteer puppy raiser was to help you grow those wings. And you have. You are ready for the next step in your training and we’ll send you off with a tight hug and a kiss on the nose. And tears, of course. We filled you up with love over these last months, so you can carry that inside yourself and continue sharing. 
All my love, Donna



Dear Hudson,
You are the sweetest, most gentle and fun puppy, and have been a wonderful addition to our family for the past 18 months.  We will miss you immensely, but are so proud of your progress and willingness to keep learning. Go Hudson, and make your trainers equally as proud.  You’re destined for greatness and will always be our hero. 
Missing you already, Diesta



Dear Hoagy,
It’s truly been a blessing for our family to have had the opportunity to raise you; a loving, attentive, playful, and super smart dog.  My heart is filled with gratitude knowing that you, the handsome pup we’ve helped raise, will make another person’s life so much better.
Hugs and kisses, Julie



Dear Harbor,
You have brought us so much joy and happiness.  Your love, tenderness and zest for life will be missed in our family and the Santa Barbara community forever. 
Always yours, Chrissie




We are so grateful to our puppy raisers! It’s their love and commitment that shape and prepare our puppies. It’s their love for our mission that allows us to provide assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities. We will always be thankful for their sacrifice and dedication.

Thank you to all the puppy raisers who have shared their life and love with our puppies.

Learn more about puppy raising

Make a donation in honor of the Hero Litter

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The Best (and cutest) College Roommate

Robin is only five months old but she’s already in college. The Canine Companions puppy rooms with sophomore Morgan Bell, a volunteer puppy raiser who takes Robin with her to classes, study sessions and around campus at the University of Central Florida.

Puppy RobinRobin, the yellow lab puppy, who arrived at Morgan’s dormitory room with lots of potential, is now on her way to becoming a highly trained assistance dog. The year and a half that Robin will spend in college will allow Morgan to teach her 30 commands, basic obedience and provide many socialization opportunities in preparation for professional training at the Southeast Training Center.

The university saw benefits for students participating as puppy raisers as well. “UCF recognized the learning opportunities that the Canine Companions for Independence program could bring to a residence hall community,” said Christi Hartzler, executive director of Housing and Residence Life at the university. “Morgan underwent a rigorous selection process and has made a huge personal commitment to work with Robin over the next year.”

Prior to committing to the program, Morgan had to get approval from the university’s student housing department, her resident assistant and all of her roommates to be allowed to house the puppy in their dorm room. Morgan knows that being a volunteer puppy raiser is a big commitment and comes with a lot of responsibility.

Morgan and Robin“Having a puppy live with me in university housing will be an awesome experience. It will increase my capacity for responsibility, will help me structure my days and will give me a feeling of purposefulness. In addition, UCF students, faculty and staff will learn more about assistance dogs and about the impact they have for people with disabilities,” said Bell.

As a puppy raiser it’s important that Morgan takes Robin out and about, allowing her to socialize with strangers, attend classes, walk amid crowds and traffic and otherwise become familiar with the world around them. “College students are some of the best people to train our puppies because they are always putting them in social situations,” said the Southeast Region puppy program manager, LeAnn Siefferman.

Canine Companions puppies are being raised by college students across the country. This has become a popular extracurricular activity for many students and some colleges have even created clubs around puppy raising for Canine Companions. Not only are puppies being well socialized, but college students are great at sharing our mission. And after all, who wouldn’t want a fluffy puppy as a roommate?

More stories and links to our college puppy raiser groups:

University of Central Florida

UCF student starts program for service dogs on campus
UCF photo gallery

Tulane University

University of Delaware
Visit the Instagram account of the puppies being raised at the University of Delaware

Canine Companions is proud of the many puppy raising students and clubs we have on campuses throughout the United States. If you’d like to start a college puppy raising program, contact us at 1-800-572-BARK (2275).

Learn more about puppy raising.

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Hero Litter Pride

What’s the easiest question for a volunteer puppy raiser to answer? “What does your Canine Companions puppy do to make you proud?” If you ever ask this question (and it’s a fun one to ask), you will receive a response that is full of smiles, pride and joy. Our puppy raisers have made the commitment of raising and training these puppies so they are prepared for professional training, and they are very proud of the results that come from all of their hard work.

We asked the Hero Litter puppy raisers to share just one thing and as you might imagine, it was challenging to narrow it down. These puppies do so many things to make their volunteer puppy raisers beam with pride.



Harvest brings so much joy and happiness to everyone that she meets. In particular, she is loved by everyone at the office. People can be seen visiting with her between meetings for cuddles or play time. She will always catch people’s eye and put a smile on their face.”



“I am proud of many things when it comes to Hala. She has matured into a great dog and she is ready for the next stage of her life. One thing that stands out is how loving and comforting Hala is. If she hears any emotion in my voice when I am talking to someone, she comes to my side and gets as close as she can or wants to do a lap!”



“I think I am most proud of how we can go anywhere with major distractions and Hudson never seems to notice.  I even find myself saying silly things like, ‘Do you see the bunny?’  He just doesn’t care!  We’ve walked just a few feet from peacocks, barking dogs, running squirrels and the rabbits he never sees.  He may glance at things, but he just keeps walking with me. He’s more interested in staying by me and enjoying his walks. This is only a tiny piece of why he’s so awesome!”



“We are so proud of the ‘Holly Berry’! She is a lover of life and people. A full body wiggle is her usual greeting of friends, but when in public, she tones it down to wagging only the rear third of her body. We’re proud of how she takes her training so serious and wants to please us. She is quick in responding to commands and looks at us with a ‘what’s next?’ expression. She really enjoys interacting with people. Not just her puppy raisers, but to be in public. Holly loves children and even though she wants to engage with them, will wait for permission. She’s matured into a very impressive dog. The little pup that used to play keep-away with the tennis ball, now drops it nicely into my hand.”



“I am so proud of Hoagy because of his fearless bravery.  Whether he is attending a noisy, crowded high school sporting event; walking in a busy grocery store maintaining his ‘let’s go’ next to me around tight aisle ways; or simply practicing walking over grated areas in the sidewalk, Hoagy remains a confident, brave dog.   He does not hesitate to try something new.”



Harpo’s flexibility and wiliness to go with the flow is what amazes us the most and makes us so proud. She takes every new experience with stride and always has a wag in her tail. She is the happiest dog we’ve ever met and brings so much joy to everyone she meets! She is a very special dog.”



“It is so hard to pick one thing we are most proud of about Harbor.  What first comes to my mind when I think of her is how happy she makes everyone feel around her.  She always has a smile on her face, and she wiggles in delight every time someone comes to greet her.  She is happy and loving in every way!”


You can hear the love and pride in each and every one of these responses! We are so grateful to the generous volunteers who give so much of themselves to raise these puppies. Our mission would not be possible without their dedication. Because of their efforts, we are able to provide assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities.

Learn more about Canine Companions for Independence.

Find out what it takes to be a volunteer puppy raiser.


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The Hero Litter Meet and Greet

Who’s been lucky enough to meet and hang out with the Hero Litter? We are so proud to say, that there have been many, many lucky fans who’ve been able to spend time with this great litter of pups and help them on their journey to becoming life-changing assistance dogs. Because each event broadens the dogs’ exposure, it’s also increasing the likelihood of their success.

Whether it’s living with several other “hounds,” rubbing elbows with celebrities in Hollywood (we like to call it Howl-lywood), or visiting the local school, these pups have had so many opportunities to grow over the last year and a half.

Holly and her Crew – Holly lives and gets to spend time with three other dogs. They help challenge her to stay focused and avoid distractions when working on her commands. They are also great fun for her to play with!


Holly and pals

Hala – Whenever she and her volunteer puppy raiser get off the airplane in Denver, Hala’s whole body starts wagging with anticipation because she knows she’s going to see her fur friends Shelby and Nova. These dogs have helped shape her personality as well as teach her proper play, how to swim, how to share toys and how to relax! Hala’s puppy raiser Sue says, “Hala’s dog friends have had just as much impact on her as the people she encounters.”

Hala visits Denver

Hala visits Denver

Harpo – Celebrities and red carpets don’t intimidate Harpo; she’s got the “step and repeat” down. In fact, she was quite the popular pup at the filming of David Tutera’s CELEB-rations featuring Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills 90210 and Sharknado) who was hosting the event to bring greater awareness to our organization. Harpo was superstar and enjoyed all the attention and treats!

Harpo on the red carpet

Harpo on the red carpet

Harvest – Harvest and her puppy raiser spend time with neighbors practicing commands and working on ignoring distractions. Changing locations for training teaches Harvest that she is expected to obey the commands regardless of her surroundings.

Harvest building skills

Harvest building skills

Hudson – Hudson gets to go to local sporting events.  Here he is at the Orlando Magic game meeting the mascot, Stuff.  He has become very calm and relaxed with all of the noise and obstacles of the arena.  He and his puppy raisers have enjoyed aisle seats which work perfectly for Hudson. The arena also has an incredibly long staircase so he can practice going up and down at a nice, easy pace.

Hudson and Stuff

Hudson and Stuff

Harbor – Harbor has been able to cheer on the local water polo players, meet up with elementary school children and has regularly attended appointments to the orthodontist. She is the dog next door and well-loved in her community.

Harbor goes to school

Harbor goes to school

Each and every meet and greet gives the Hero Litter pups the opportunity to practice commands regardless of who or what is around them. As professional training is quickly approaching, these daily events will help prepare them for what’s to come. We are thrilled with the amazing work of the volunteer puppy raisers who are loving and training this wonderful group of dogs.

Learn more about Canine Companions.

Learn more about puppy raising.



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Looking Ahead with the Hero Litter?

It seems like just last month we were announcing the arrival of the Eukanuba Hero Litter to our supporters! We shared their newborn pics, their “H” names and what their collar colors signified.  What an exciting time that was for all of us.

Hero Litter Hoagy


So it’s hard to believe they only have a short time left with their volunteer puppy raisers. This November, they will return to Canine Companions for professional training and take one step closer to becoming life-changing assistance dogs.

Hero Litter Holly


It’s during these next few months their puppy raisers will “proof” them. That is to say, they will make sure they have their commands perfected in any situation. Holly’s puppy raiser says, “We want to ensure she’s able to keep the distraction level low regardless of where we’re visiting. “

It’s also a special time for them to revisit favorite activities and create a few more memories.



Harpo’s puppy raiser shares, “We know that this time will fly by, so while we enjoy our last few months with Harpo by doing her favorite things (swimming, playing with friends and lots of snuggling) we’ll also be polishing her commands in preparation for professional training. “

Hero Litter Hala


All the love and work the puppy raisers have invested into the Hero Litter makes this time bittersweet. “These final few months with Hala will be the most precious time for us,” says her puppy raiser. They can be so proud of how much the pups know and all they have accomplished, but they will still miss this sweet bunch.

Hudson with his puppy raiser

Hudson with his puppy raiser

“My goal is to enjoy every moment with him while working to get him as far along as possible for a smooth transition to professional training.” Hudson’s puppy raiser says.  She continues, “He is very well socialized with no issues, but I will probably take him along to even more places, as our time together grows shorter. Gonna miss that boy, but very proud of the pup he’s become!”

Hero Litter Harvest


So many, many thanks to these wonderful volunteer puppy raisers for all they have done to train, support and love this special group of dogs. They are well on their way to becoming assistance dogs to an adult, child or veteran with a disability.

Learn more about volunteer puppy raising.

Learn more about our organization.

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Where do your donations go?

IA_job_jamesHere at Canine Companions for Independence we are continually working to provide more highly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities. And the truth of the matter is that we can’t do this without the generous support of our donors. But have you ever wondered how much of each donated dollar actually goes to the training and placement of our assistance dogs? It’s a common question, and we are always proud to share our financial information as it highlights our dedication to the mission and our fiscal responsibility.

Over the past four years, Canine Companions has invested an average of 76% of every dollar directly to our program services. This includes our training and follow-up services, breeding and puppy raising programs, providing information to the public as well as the wonderful veterinary care we provide our dogs.  According to the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, at least 65% of total expenses should be spent on program activities. Canine Companions continues to surpass this number by a comfortable margin.

2014 ANNUAL REPORT_FINAL-1Financial transparency is of the utmost importance to our organization. Annual reports, 990’s, and auditor’s reports can be accessed on our website at Our supporters can give with confidence knowing that their donations are being used responsibly and with the integrity they expect from Canine Companions for Independence.

Take some time to read about our successes and record-breaking year in our 2014 Annual Report.

Thank you for your support and dedication to our mission.

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