New Adventures with the Hero Litter

As the Hero Litter puppies mature and master commands, they take longer excursions to new venues to practice what they have learned in puppy class. These trips will help increase their confidence and develop new skills.

A Dog with Wings?
Harpo traveled by plane to Portland, OR and Denver, CO this month. Her puppy raiser Chris says, “Harpo loved meeting all the security people and thought that going on a plane was really cool.  No big thing to her…just another adventure.” What a great opportunity to share our mission and increase Harpo’s comfort level. She’s earned her wings!


Harpo takes flight.

Pumpkin Pups
There are so many wonderful places to visit as the weather cools off and the season start to change. The Hero Litter pups love to celebrate and trips to the pumpkin patch have been enjoyed by many of them.

pumpkin pup

Harvest, Hala and Holly at the farm.

Yellow Tie and Tail Affair
Hero Litter puppy Hudson was a special guest at our Southeast Region’s gala earlier this month. Not only did he get to show off his best puppy manners, he looked very dapper as well.


Handsome Hudson.

Working Dog
Hoagy has been going to work with his volunteer puppy raiser on a regular basis. “He enjoys greeting new people and practicing his skills like: visit, lap and going down steps,” shares his puppy raiser Julie. The commands that Hoagy works on in the office will help him become an adaptive and confident pup.


Hoagy and his workmates.

Cooling Off
Not only do these trips provide the Hero Litter pups the opportunity to meet new people and visit new places, they also get a lot of really nice attention. Harbor has been heading out to the pool to watch the water polo matches of her puppy raisers. She even receives a cool down when things start to heat up. Everywhere the puppies go, they are showered with love, attention and praise.


Harbor takes a dip.

Each and every one of these experiences allows for greater socialization of the puppies. Without the care and dedication of the puppy raisers, our mission would not be possible. With their help, we are able to provide highly-trained assistance dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities. A great big THANKS to our volunteer puppy raisers for all they do!

Learn more about our puppy raising program.

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Hittin’ the Books with the Hero Litter

You might already know that socialization is a big part of what goes into raising a Canine Companions puppy. But did you also know that as a volunteer puppy raiser, one is responsible for taking their puppy to “school?”


Hala practicing her down-stay at the park.

“Hala enjoys going to class and learning new things. She can be easily distracted by the other dogs in class, so in-between classes, we are practicing her commands at the park where there are a lot of dogs and kids,” shares Sue, Hala’s volunteer puppy raiser.


Hudson taking a power nap!

Hudson’s puppy raiser Diesta explains, “In class, we work on being calm in the kennel and not attempting to exit until given the ‘release’ command. He’s got that…no problem!”


Harbor working on her “up.”

When a new command is mastered, a new one is introduced. Then, field trips are taken and practicing in a new environment becomes the challenge. All the Hero Litter puppies will get the opportunity to learn and grow in various locals. Puppy Class is a fun time for all and is a special time for the dogs.


Harpo getting to be the demo dog.

“Harpo loves going to puppy class every week! And sometimes she gets to be the demo puppy which always makes her feel very special,” says Erin, Harpo’s puppy raiser. She continues, “Harpo’s favorite commands are ‘shake’ and ‘speak’. She does both of these VERY well!”


Hoagy working with distractions.

The Hero Litter puppies are getting a premium education and taking the lessons they are learning very seriously. By the time they are brought back for professional training, they will have learned as many as 30 commands.


Holly always gets called to the blackboard. Teacher’s pet – ha!

We are so grateful to the volunteer puppy raisers who take these puppies to class each week and spend extra time helping them perfect their lessons.


Harvest knows to ignore the kibble.

Many thanks to all of our puppy raisers! We couldn’t do what we do without you.

Learn about becoming a volunteer puppy raiser.

Watch puppy training videos.

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Making the Grade for Canine Companions

SWR_Blog_08_27We’ve said it before, our volunteers make our mission possible! The dedication, passion and hours worked by our volunteers allow us to provide assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities.

Today, we recognize 10-year-old Amanda for the work she’s done on behalf of Canine Companions for Independence.

Amanda attends Francis Parker Elementary in San Diego where fourth graders are required to create a business and sell their products to students at school. At the end of this experience, each fourth grade class must agree upon a charity to receive all of their accumulated profits.

Amanda’s business created and sold stylish bow ties and hair barrettes out of patterned duct tape. After their successful sales, Amanda gave a class presentation on Canine Companions for Independence and handed out pencils and bookmarks. The class was tasked with narrowing down the beneficiary choices via vote to 10 charities, then six! Amanda did additional research and gave a persuasive speech to champion the cause of Canine Companions for the final round. Final vote… a tie! Additional vote… Canine Companions wins!

Because of Amanda and the rest of Ms. Belknap’s class, over $600 will go to Canine Companions for Independence. Many thanks, Amanda, for your work and efforts on behalf of our mission.

Find volunteer opportunities in your area.

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The First Step to Filling Some Big Paws

IA_job_jamesThe path to become an elite assistance dog instructor at Canine Companions is much like the journey our extraordinary assistance dogs experience: start small, learn the basics, pass the tests, flourish and become life-changers.

Our instructors begin their journey as instructor assistants exactly where our puppies do—at the Jean and Charles Schulz Campus in Santa Rosa, California. Instructor assistants come from all around the country to Canine Companions’ headquarters with a passion for dogs, learning and making a difference in the lives of others. Instructor assistants absorb one year of training and skills necessary to succeed and graduate to the next level. Then they transfer to one of Canine Companions’ regional training centers across the country.

Our Northwest Training Manager Flora Baird shares her experience in becoming a Canine Companions instructor. Flora was raised in Texas, graduated college and at 23, knew her life’s ambition was to help people. What attracted her to our organization was the appeal of working with dogs, but as Flora states, “I came to Canine Companions for the dogs; I stay for the people.” Instructor assistants learn by shadowing our experienced instructors during dog handling, grooming, helping in the kennels and by witnessing the beauty of the placement of life-changing assistance dogs with people with disabilities.IA_post

After learning the foundation for training assistance dogs in California, Flora relocated to Canine Companions’ Northeast training center in Medford, New York. Under the guidance of our Assistance Dogs International accredited professional instructors, Flora began training her first group of dogs. Almost nine years later, Flora is relocating again, back to Santa Rosa to begin training instructor apprentices as the new training manager. “I’ve moved all over the country, met wonderful people and gained so many amazing experiences through Canine Companions. Now I know I’ve come full circle—teaching college graduates to take the first steps on an amazing journey.”

Successful instructor assistant applicants have a willingness to relocate to one of our training centers across the country, knowledge of dogs, a college degree, strong written and verbal communication skills, physical stamina and excellent teaching skills.

If you are interested in more information or applying, visit

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Hero Litter Happenings – Favorite Things!

Each one of the Hero Litter puppies has a “favorite!” Whether it’s a toy or a playmate, they all have something special that makes them light up and shake a tail.

Hala’s favorite toy would be the ball toys that her volunteer puppy raiser makes. She sits and watches as they are made and gives an “is that one mine” look. Needless to say, many go to her!



If you ask Harbor and Harpo what their favorite thing is they would probably reply, “Each other!” They’ve been lucky enough to have spent most of the last month together and boy do they love it! They play, play, play and then nap, nap, nap. Either way, they’re always together and always touching each other one way or another.

Harpo and Harbor

Harpo and Harbor

Harvest loves to play with her many toys; although, she gets so excited that she can be a bit rough on them!



Bodine the cat is HOLLY’S favorite playmate. Bodine likes to hold Holly’s leash.

Holly with Bodine

Holly with Bodine

By far, Hudson’s favorite thing is to be with his best friend – Kristoff. They lie together and play together constantly. If they are apart and reunite, it’s like a party! When they go on a walk together, they are shoulder to shoulder. Absolutely best buddies!

Hudson and his pal Kristoff

Hudson and his pal Kristoff

Hoagy has been enamored by his bear since he was a small pup. While the bear no longer has ears, Hoagy is very gentle with his little friend.

Hoagy with Bear

Hoagy with Bear

As these Canine Companions puppies grow up, it’s great fun to see what they are drawn to and what gives them so much joy! We send many thanks to the volunteer puppy raisers who provide these wonderful “favorites” to the Hero Litter puppies.

Learn more about puppy raising.

Learn more about Canine Companions for Independence.

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The Hero Litter Update – Mellow or Moxie?

The Hero Litter puppies have been spending the last couple of months adjusting to their volunteer puppy raisers’ homes and routines. During this time of settling in, the pups’ temperaments start to come out and really shine.

So what traits have the Hero Litter pups been displaying? Mellow, moxie or somewhere in between, find out from their volunteer puppy raisers…



Hala – “It takes both to make a wonderful working dog. Hala’s mellow side is very gentle and loving. Her moxie side allows her to face difficulty (loud noises, strange surfaces, new challenges) with spirit and courage.”



Harpo – “Harpo is the perfect combination of mellow and moxie. She loves to play and party but also knows how to relax, be calm and she’s starting to understand what working means. She is an easy pup and such a love!”



Harvest – “Harvest is a little bit mellow and moxie!! Depends on the day. Plus, I am fairly certain, that she is fully aware of how cute she is, so she thinks she deserves special treatment. Overall, she is really sweet and is VERY quick to learn a command which has made working with her lots of fun.”



Holly – “Mellow or moxie? Our Miss Holly is all attitude. High energy and curious, she is a little yellow flurry of adventures waiting to happen.”



Hudson – “Hudson is definitely the middle of the road between mellow and moxie! He’s easy to train with a little stubborn streak. It’s difficult to not laugh at him as he ‘grumbles’ at me when I ask a command of him, that he’s just not feeling. He gets lots of attention and good-boy pats, which seem to motivate him.”



Hoagy  – “Hoagy’s temperament is starting to come out! I define it as being willfully mellow. He is very motivated by attention and food and most certainly has captured our hearts.”



Harbor – “I would definitely say Harbor is moxie. She is bubbly and happy to see everyone and loves to play, especially with our 12-year-old release dog, Charlie. She loves to sit outside in our back yard and feel the wind blow on her face.”

Thank you to all the puppy raisers for their dedication, love and effort in raising the Hero Litter and for sharing their thoughts on this wonderful group of pups!

Learn more about puppy raising.

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Want to know what the Hero Litter pups really LOVE? Check back next month to read about their favorite toys, places, people and more.

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4th of July and Summer Safety Tips

eukaThe warm months of summer are great for spending quality time outdoors with your dog. However, remember that dogs wear fur coats all year! Whether you are raising a puppy for Canine Companions or spending an afternoon out with your pet, here are some tips to keep cool and safe all summer long.

Hot Weather – Things are heating up! Don’t forget:
– Limit outdoor exercise on hot days. Save long walks for early morning or evening when it is light out, but not as hot.
– Avoid hot pavement that can injure the pads on dogs’ feet. Stick to dirt paths or grass.
– Make sure your dog has access to ample shade and fresh, cool water.
– Never leave your dog unattended in a hot car on a summer day—even for a few minutes.
– If you think your dog is showing signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, contact your veterinarian immediately.

4th of July –While we may enjoy the Fourth of July, it has the potential to be stressful for dogs. Please remember:
– Don’t bring a puppy to a fireworks display. Fireworks can do damage to dog ears.
– Keep your puppy indoors on the Fourth of July. To help them feel secure, provide familiar indoor sounds such as a fan, radio, or TV that can help muffle the sounds of fireworks.
– Consider providing a crate for your puppy or dog. You can leave the door open to allow the dog in/out access, or even crate them in a quiet room with those familiar sounds.
– If the puppy displays anxious behaviors, such as whining or pacing, attempt to distract them by playing with their favorite toy or doing something they enjoy.
– When letting the puppy out to toilet, be sure that they wear a well-fitted collar and current I.D. tag. On rare occasions, dogs that are startled by loud noises will attempt to escape the noise despite boundaries like fences.

elmo_storiesSwimming Safety – This is not just your typical “No Running by the Pool”—this is puppy pool safety! Take care:
– Pools of all sizes are great for dogs to cool off in, but remember not all dogs can swim. Dogs that are tentative to enter the water should never be “flooded” and tossed in the pool. Try starting out with lots of motivation, toys, and a plastic baby pool. Get in the pool yourself and show your pup how it’s done.
– Whenever you encounter a new pool, be sure to show the puppy where and how to enter and exit the pool.
– Always supervise your dog or puppy!
– Remove all equipment(leashes, vests, collars) before allowing pool play. This will keep the puppy from getting caught on others objects or swimmers.
– After swimming, give the puppy’s skin a good rinse with fresh water and a good towel dry. Consider flushing the ears with a cleansing/drying ear rinse and be sure to thoroughly dry the inside of their ears with some cotton.

Here’s wishing you and your pup a very fun and safe summer!

Would you like more information on puppy raising? Visit: for our FAQs.

Would you like to donate to Canine Companions? Visit: to change a life.

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What’s happening with the Hero Litter

The Hero Litter pups are making themselves at home and getting to know and love their volunteer puppy raisers. Hudson’s puppy raiser Diesta says, “We are bonding and really getting to understand each other. I’m totally in love.”

The first month with their puppy raisers is an important time of transition as they are introduced to new environments, people and routines.

Some pups are getting used to a larger and different “pack.” Chrissie, Harbor’s puppy raiser says, “Harbor is adjusting well to our busy family. She has play time with our three children, 11-year-old lab/golden mix and two cats.”

For other Hero Litter pups, establishing a new schedule is the first order of business. “We have settled into a nice routine of going to work during the week and puppy class,” shares Sue, puppy raiser to Hala. “Weekends are for relaxing and working on her first basic commands: learning her name, sit, shake, down and practice wearing the gentle leader.”

Socialization is also key to the early training these pups receive. This means meeting new friends, traveling to different locations and experiencing new sights and sounds. Holly and Hoagy are being raised by Eukanuba employees and have enjoyed the great facilities at their corporate headquarters. “They are learning proper meeting etiquette for a puppy, which is sleeping peacefully under the table,” explains Donna, Holly’s puppy raiser.


The Hero Litter is off to a great start! All this early socialization will help them with their professional training and their work towards becoming an assistance dog for a person with a disability. Thank you to all the puppy raisers who are such a vital part of our mission.

Learn more about puppy raising.

Visit our website.

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Kids Give Big

Sometimes Canine Companions’ greatest supporters are also the youngest. Our Northwest Training Center recently received four donations totaling over $7,000 from some very generous kids! Read on to find out more about these impressive young ambassadors for our mission.

abbiGood Design: After receiving a Rainbow Loom for Christmas, Abbi Roman (with Skilled Companion Palua) decided to start her own bracelet-making business. Abbi designs and weaves these beautiful bracelets and then sells them at school, while friends sell the bracelets at other schools and her grandmother sells them at church. She decided that all proceeds would go to Canine Companions! Abbi is still making bracelets…

Oak ChanCanine Café: The students in Susan Woodman’s class at Oak Chan Elementary School in Folsom, CA benefit every day from their Facility Dog Reisig who is a constant calming presence. Since Susan received Reisig in 2005, Canine Companions has been the recipient of her class’ annual fundraiser. They create a restaurant called Dragon Paradise Café for three days each year, during which students create a menu, and then help cook and serve the food. Earlier this month, the class dropped off their donation in the form of toys for our dogs in professional training.

Brownies_CanineCompanionsBrownie Bonus: Theresa Stenhouse of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center received Facility Dog Sierra earlier this year and Theresa’s daughter fell in love. So did the rest of Brownie Troop 62180! They decided to donate money from their annual cookie sales to help Canine Companions. It was a very sweet surprise!

Make It PawsiblePositively PAWSible: Two fifth-grade classes at Silver Oak Elementary School spearheaded a service project called Make it PAWsible. They raise money in honor of teacher Bill Laraway’s sister, long-time graduate Lee Ann Laraway, who passed away last year. Through an in-school dollar drive and online donations, they made a significant contribution to Canine Companions this year!

Bravo, kids! Many thanks for your efforts and good work!

Learn more about hosting an independent fundraiser.

Start your own online fundraising page.

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Hittin’ the Road for Canine Companions


The Bochers with their back tires in the Pacific Ocean

After turning in a second puppy for Canine Companions, volunteer puppy raisers Barb and Bill Bochner decided to take a little cycling trip. Well, okay, maybe not so little. They are cycling across the United States!

Bochners 8Follow Barb and Bill Bochner, aka the Pedaling Puppy Raisers, on their trip across the country to raise money and awareness for Canine Companions’ Wounded Veterans Initiative! Barb and Bill started in Anacortes, Washington at the end of May. They’ve traveled over 700 miles so far, braving mountain passes, bear reports and big rigs. They’ll be cycling all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine, which they should reach by September. View their blog and donate here.Bochners 7

Bill says, “After over 30 years of talking about this trip and months of preparation, we’re finally heading out. We’ll see you on the road.”

Live along the route? Leave a message on Barb and Bill’s blog, and then rally some friends to cheer for the Pedaling Puppy Raisers during their long trip!

Good luck Barb and Bill. Thank you for your efforts and dedication!

Bochners 2

Learn more about being a volunteer puppy raiser.

Learn more about our Wounded Veterans Initiative. 

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