“Raising a Hero” – A Story About an Assistance Dog

Work_For_Bisquits_1A Kickstarter campaign is about conveying a vision.  It’s this wacky, collaborative fundraising effort to bring a project to life.

Laura Numeroff and I experienced all the joys and challenges one might expect while independently producing “Raising a Hero.”

I realize how much harder this book was for Laura to write.  The characters are focused on helping someone with a disability; the story celebrates the bond of a puppy raiser and puppy only to introduce a departure for the benefit of someone in need.

Our character Max explains that his life’s purpose of becoming a service dog is “kind of like being a hero!” But what is a service dog?  How are they different from other dogs?

Finding ways to explain this to a five year-old is no walk in the park.

Perhaps my experience living with Ellie, a Canine Companions skilled companion dog working with my brother, Devin, who has cerebral palsy, keeps me believing these complicated realities can be overshadowed by someone’s simple acts of kindness.

This project is dedicated to the extraordinary volunteers, trainers, staff and donors who provide service dogs to people like Devin.

Laura Numeroff wrote the children’s classic, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” in 1985.  It was rejected nine times before Harper Collins—who had already passed on the manuscript—published the book.  30 years later, her If You Give… series has sold more than 17 million copies.

In 2013, I met Laura who had recently received word that her manuscript for a new book about therapy dogs—an illustrated collection of real-life short stories—had been rejected by her editors.  After we discovered our shared love for animals, and creativity, we began brainstorming how to further develop this concept into a fictional children’s series.

You can read Laura’s blog article about those early days and how we became inspired to create the Work for Biscuits series with the help of Canine Companions for Independence.

I’m honored to write that the Kickstarter community has now helped shape and fund our project.  We finally reached our goal (with **TWO** days left to go) but, more importantly, we reached you.


We have hundreds of donors across the world sending “Raising a Hero” to libraries, schools, children’s hospitals and charities.

We even introduced a challenge to raise more money to fund the interactive storybook app for iPad.  Imagine how many families we could reach! Our books might one day have a platform to serve and inspire people with all kinds of accessibility challenges.

I invite you to explore our project further and join us in this endeavor.  Our Kickstarter campaign ends February 26 but there is much more to accomplish.

Again, thank you to everyone for believing in our project.  Laura and I could not have produced this book without your support.

Sean Hanrahan
Co-creator, Work for Biscuits


Posted in Assistance Dogs, Books, Canine Companions, puppies, Puppy Raising, service dogs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

All-Weather Pups

Sun and rain, mud and snow; the Hero Litter loves them all. These Canine Companions puppies sure know how to have a great time no matter what the weather conditions.



Hala is a sunshine girl and enjoys the warm winters in Arizona, but when a light rain was falling during the Super Bowl Fan Fest, her puppy raisers saw an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. It was good to see how well she responded to commands while getting rained on.  A big umbrella and all the people also provided great distractions.



Harpo enjoys a mud bath after it rains! It doesn’t rain very often in California so when it does, Harpo and her volunteer puppy raiser love to get out and enjoy it! Harpo finds the muddiest spot in the yard to roll and roll and roll. She has so much fun!



Harvest loves spending time on the hiking trails at the Eukanuba campus. The snow doesn’t slow her down. Harvest always looks for the big mounds of snow and will lie down right on top of them.  Her beautiful fluffy coat must provide extra insulation.



Holly loves the Ohio snow when they have it. She enjoys trying to find the tennis balls that get covered and playing snow plow with her nose.



Hudson looks forward to his walks on the Florida beaches.  They head out early in the morning so he doesn’t get too hot.  He takes notice of the ocean birds and kids playing ball, but has learned to walk by them.  He’s always seems so happy and loves the sunshine



Hoagy is living in the Midwest and loves the winter weather. He takes regular walks with his puppy raiser around a beautiful lake and loves to bite at snowflakes when it is snowing.



Harbor loves to sunbathe in the Southern California sunshine, take hikes with her puppy raisers and hang out at the beach.

All the time the Hero Litter puppies spend exploring, experiencing and adventuring prepares them for the life of assistance dogs. They need to be ready to go out in any condition without sensitivities or hesitation. Our volunteer puppy raisers ensure that they are growing and learning how to be on task and alert regardless of the forecast.

A great big “Thank You” to all of our volunteer puppy raisers who are making our mission possible.

Learn more about becoming a volunteer puppy raiser.

Make a donation to Canine Companions for Independence.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, puppies, Puppy Raising, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Working Together to Change Lives

Brent and Sharon with Olga

Brent and Sharon with Olga

There is something magical about the power of teamwork. In Atlanta, GA there is a special collaboration involving a team of 4 Canine Companions volunteers – puppy raisers Jim and Carol Fain and Skilled Companion Team Sharon and Brent O’Grady. These two teams always travel with a plus 1 – the O’Grady’s with Skilled Companion Dog Olga III and the Fain’s with the current puppy they are raising. They have worked together for years visiting patients and presenting information about Canine Companions at the Shepherd Center. The Shepherd Center is a rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord and brain injury patients.

“We love doing this for Canine Companions. It’s wonderful to show the patients, that although their lives may have changed – life is not over,” says Sharon. She remembers a visiting a police officer who had been severely injured during a high-speed chase. He was not aware of anything until Olga did the step command and her head went under his hand. He stirred a bit and gave his parents hope for his recovery.

Carol with Holmes

Carol with Holmes

Jim and Carol tell them all about puppy raising – and as 13-time puppy raisers, they have the knowledge. “Before the program and at the end, I allow the patients a bit of one-on-one time with the puppy. What I enjoy is watching the patients’ eyes light up when I give the puppy the lap command and he pops into their laps. It’s a good moment for them and for us,” says Jim.

Some patients even come to the Shepherd Center gym to practice wheelchair basketball with Brent and get more one-on-one time with Olga. “We get a chance to brighten up their evening,” explains Sharon, “and hopefully when they apply for a dog, to brighten up their life.”

Puppy time!

Puppy time!

Learn more about puppy raising.

Learn more about our skilled companions.

Posted in Canine Companions, facility dogs, puppies, Puppy Raising, skilled companions, Uncategorized, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaching the Next Level with the Hero Litter

Happy 2015! We are excited to share this update on the Eukanuba Hero Litter.

The days of introducing and learning basic skills such as “sit,” “down,” and “shake” are past. The Hero Litter is currently practicing, and perfecting, a higher level of commands.


Good boy Hudson!

“Hudson is working on a good ‘Under.’ It’s so important to have this command to visit restaurants and public places without being obtrusive,” shares volunteer puppy raiser Diesta.


Snow bunny Harvest

Harvest and her puppy raiser recently took a trip to a ski resort to work on maintaining her attention despite all of the distractions.


Holly ready to play!

Since the pups are older and bigger, they can also advance to more challenging physical commands. Donna explains, “Now that Holly’s body is maturing, we’ve started to work on ‘Jump.’  This is one of her favorite commands since she’s such an active girl.”


Nice visit from Harpo

“We are really working on the ‘Visit’ command,” says Chris, Harpo’s puppy raiser. “Harpo will naturally put her head in someone’s lap and stay there but we are working on her learning the command.  As always treats really work with her plus the fact that she loves to please.”

While some of the commands are mastered fairly quickly, others require the puppy raiser to creatively set the puppy up for success while learning.


Sweet Hala

Volunteer puppy raiser Sue shares, “Hala is working on perfecting the ‘Stand’ command. I find it is most challenging for the dogs to go from a ‘Down’ to ‘Stand.’ So I start with a ‘Sit’ to ‘Stand.’ When that is perfected, we move on to a ‘Down’ to ‘Stand.’ Soon they will do a ‘Stand’ command from any position. Before meals is good time to practice since there is motivation for treats.”

The puppies continue their journey by developing their practical and social skills every day. With each new command, experience or person they encounter, the Hero Litter pups are preparing for professional training and ultimately their work as assistance dogs.

All the time, work and love that the volunteer puppy raisers dedicate is what makes our mission possible. We send a great big THANKS for all they do.

Learn more about puppy raising.

Visit our website. 

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, puppies, Puppy Raising, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Holidays from the Hero Litter

The Hero Litter is ready to deck the halls with boughs of dog bones and fa-la-la-la-woof their way into the holiday season.

These pups have been increasing the time they spend socializing with their volunteer puppy raisers, representing Canine Companions for Independence, developing greater confidence with the commands they are learning and sharing our mission throughout their communities.

Hala flew to Colorado for the Thanksgiving holiday to be with family and friends and practice her airline social skills. She earned her wings!


Happy Hala-days!

Harpo met Santa over the weekend and like most children when they first meet Santa, she wasn’t so sure if she should trust the jolly fellow. Going forward her volunteer puppy raiser will work on having positive interactions with large elves and others alike!



Harvest was able to enjoy the experience of her puppy raiser unpacking Christmas lights and putting up the decorations. She will also be traveling to Toronto for the holidays.



Holly and her puppy raiser volunteered at their local Barnes & Noble gift wrapping station. This was the perfect opportunity to learn to meet and greet people in a new and exciting environment.



Hudson took the commuter train and enjoyed a night at the Orlando Magic basketball game. He and his puppy raiser took walks in the neighborhood, experiencing all of the different holiday yard decorations.



Hoagy shared his holiday joy at a Christmas caroling event at his puppy raiser’s church.



Harbor and her puppy raisers have gone on many shopping outings and even experienced the Santa Barbara Downtown Christmas Parade.




All these holiday events contribute to greater socialization for the Hero Litter puppies. Every new location, person and experience allow them to increase their comfort and response to the world around them. This is an important part of their journey to becoming successful assistance dogs so that one day, they will be the answer to the holiday wish of someone with a disability.

Happy holidays from the Hero Litter and Canine Companions for Independence.

 Make a year-end gift to honor the Hero Litter.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Dogs, Hero Litter, puppies, Puppy Raising, service dogs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hero Litter Shows Their Gratitude

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we thought it would be fun to share how the Hero Litter puppies show their gratitude. We checked in with the volunteer puppy raisers, and it’s amazing that almost all of them responded with the same answer…

“The full body wag!”



Donna, puppy raiser to Holly says, “Her attitude of gratitude is announced by her whole body wiggle.”



Hudson shows his gratitude by doing a happy dance.  He’s got the whole butt wiggle down.”



Puppy raiser Julie includes, “Hoagy shows his gratitude with his happy prance.”



“Harbor shows her gratitude with a big tail wag and wiggle. Her long body wiggles so hard that sometimes her tail hits her in the face.”



Harpo’s puppy raiser Erin says, “She loves to show us how happy we make her with a wag and a wiggle.”



“Hala does the full body wag, body bends in half, her tail is a blur it’s going so fast!”



The one stand out is Harvest (of course!)…when she is grateful, “she has a big smile on her face.”

These are some happy and grateful pups!

Here at Canine Companions for Independence, we’d also like to give a full body wag in honor of all the volunteers, donors and supporters who give so much of their time, energy and resources. Our work wouldn’t be possible without your generosity.

We give thanks each and every day for all you do!

Learn more about Canine Companions for Independence.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, puppies, Puppy Raising, Uncategorized, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Raising a Hero:’ A New Children’s Book About a Service Dog

Enjoy this guest post from Laura Numeroff, author of New York Times Best Seller, ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’


New York Times Bestselling Author Laura Numeroff

I’ve been a huge dog lover all of my life!

When I wrote ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’ thirty years ago, I certainly never expected it to become a bestselling series, with sales over 14 million books! At that point, I was happy just to sell the story!

I’ve since published 40 other children’s books, and been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for over thirty-three weeks. Mind-boggling!

Before I had ever heard of Canine Companions for Independence, I was having trouble finding a publisher for a manuscript about a therapy dog — a subject I’ve always wanted to write about!

One of my editors felt it was more suited for the ASPCA.

I was still trying to sell the story when my friend and co-creator of Work for Biscuits, Sean Hanrahan, and I started discussing the possibility of developing and publishing a new series about dogs independently. As you might expect, we had a lot of details to sort out.


‘Raising a Hero,’ the first story of the series, is about raising a puppy to become a service dog. It’s a fun illustrated children’s book that captures the selflessness of puppy raising and spotlights a young puppy determined to be a service dog and help others. (“It’s kind of like being a hero!”)

Sean introduced me to Canine Companions last year and we’ve since worked closely with the teams in Oceanside and Santa Rosa, California to understand the life of a service dog, from birth to retirement.

While neither of us had every raised a puppy, Sean’s brother Devin, a young man with cerebral palsy, had been paired 9 years ago with a Canine Companions assistance dog, Ellie. Sean knew first hand how incredible service dogs were for someone like his brother.

Ellie helps Devin in many ways. One of the more obvious skills she has is getting people’s attention and serving as a social bridge between Devin and others. She is still super cute and helpful even though she recently retired!

Ellie represents everything I wanted to write about, so it was natural for me to dedicate ‘Raising a Hero’ to her and Devin.

Sean and I worked for months to nail down the tone, balance the amount of information and fun in the story, and tackle how to introduce to children the subject of dogs helping people who are disabled.

The hardest part was letting our young readers know that Sam, the boy in the story, has to give up Max, the puppy, at some point — an emotional moment every puppy raiser experiences.

We searched for months to find the right artist. We were getting a bit discouraged before my favorite illustrator and friend, Lynn Munsinger — whom I’ve worked with on many projects including The Jellybeans series and What Mommies/Daddies Do Best called with good news. She was not only excited about the project, but she was available! This was a dream come true!

I love her work so much that I call her my “Steven Spielberg.”

We finalized the manuscript and started planning how we would produce and promote the project. Sean suggested we consider crowdfunding on Kickstarter; we could connect with our new audiences directly and gain feedback to help shape the book.

I’ve even started researching for our second book of the series, about a heroic military dog who unites a family while overseas and back at home.

We are so encouraged working with Canine Companions for Independence and look forward to connecting with you as our project comes to life.

Our Kickstarter campaign is currently running through Nov. 20. It’s really simple to pledge any amount on the site — if we successfully reach our goal, all funding will go toward producing the hardcover book, interactive app, and teaching kids about service dogs through school and hospital visits.

By backing ‘Raising a Hero’ on Kickstarter, we can highlight the fullness of life these heroic dogs, puppy raisers, and trainers give to those with special needs.

Thank you so much for your support,


You can learn more about the Work for Biscuits series online at www.workforbiscuits.com.

Support our project on Kickstarter.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, puppies, Puppy Raising, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Journey to Extraordinary

The "E" Litter

The E Litter journey begins.

In September of 2012, Canine Companions for Independence introduced the E Litter to the world! With a generous sponsorship from Eukanuba, this group of puppies started their journey to extraordinary with the hopes of becoming life-changing assistance dogs.

Emma, Everett, Ella, Elmo, Euka, Emily, Ethan and Eliza were a daily highlight as more than 250,000 people watched them on the Eukanuba puppy cam. Everyone wondered which of these pups would make it to Team Training where they would meet and be matched with the person they would serve.

We are thrilled to announce that seven out of the eight E Litter puppies have made it to Team Training. Why such a high number? What made this litter so successful? Was it their puppy raisers’ hard work and dedication? Was it their excellent genes? Was it the effort of our instructors and staff? We asked ourselves these same questions and the answer is…YES!

The E Litter puppy raisers played a huge part in this achievement. Some were repeat puppy raisers and some were “first timers.” This dedicated group of volunteers brought the puppies out in their communities and to their offices, made long road trips and outings to the market, took visits to museums and local ballparks, and more. The E Litter puppies were socialized extremely well and were given opportunities to meet new people and experience different environments.  This group of puppies became well-traveled and adaptable.

The E Litter also had the genetic makeup to be successful. Canine Companions  takes their breeding program very seriously. Each match is unique but many factors come into play before a breeding takes place. We look at the health of past litters, overall success rates, temperaments and that certain “x-factor.” The E Litter puppies had science and genetic history on their side when they were born. Canine Companions continually looks at our breeding program to find ways to improve the outcome and health of our puppies.

Assistance dog

The journey continues…

Finally, the impact of our staff and instructors cannot be undervalued in the positive outcome of this litter. Weekly puppy classes, monthly check-ins and of course 6 months of professional training brought the E Litter to where they are now. Our instructors worked with each of these dogs teaching them to turn on and off light switches, pick up dropped items, pull wheel chairs, accept getting “dressed up” and so much more. Not only are the E Litter pups extra special, but so are our instructors.

“The Journey to Extraordinary” began as the tagline for the E Litter but has turned out to be a reality. This litter continues the journey as they finish their training and start their lives as working assistance dogs.

Congratulations and many thanks to all who have supported, raised, trained and loved them.

Learn more about Team Training, or make a donation in honor of the E Litter.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, puppies, Puppy Raising | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, Puppy Raising | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, Puppy Raising | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment