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

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 , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, volunteer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Instructor assistants, service dogs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Assistance Dogs, Canine Companions, Eukanuba, Hero Litter, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments