Each year about 600 puppies are born into the Canine Companions community—all are born with the hopes of becoming an assistance dog and creating independence for a person with a disability.
With her parents support, Heather Shimabukuru took on the responsibilities of being Heaven’s volunteer puppy raiser.
There are over 1,000 volunteer puppy raisers across the country who provide Canine Companions puppies with a safe home, take them to obedience classes, serve up a healthy diet, provide socialization opportunities and give lots of love.
“My favorite cousins have muscular dystrophy and I wanted to raise a puppy to be an assistance dog in their honor,” Heather explains.
When the Shimabukuru family returned Heaven to Canine Companions for professional training there were tears…but there was a lot more.
“I felt proud. We all accomplished so much, and I knew Heaven would do amazing work,” shares Heather.
At about the age of 18 months volunteer puppy raisers return their now well-mannered puppy to our training centers. From there our professional instructors train the assistance dog hopefuls to perform over 40 commands.
While the Shimabukuro family was raising Heaven, Titus was praying.
“Before we got to Canine Companions, Titus would pray every night for heaven to bring him a dog,” Titus’s mom, Valerie explains.
When Titus and Valerie arrived for Team Training it was obvious that Titus knew what having an assistance dog was all about.
Each person hoping to receive a Canine Companions assistance dog completes a thorough application process. Once the application process is complete and Canine Companions instructors feel they have the perfect dog for the applicant, the applicant is invited to come to a training center for a two-week Team Training. The Team Training experience is a special time where students learn how to handle their new assistance dogs.
“I have spina bifida and the doctors said I wouldn’t walk. But I can! I can’t always pick stuff up off the ground, but now I’m going to get a dog to help me,” shared Titus as he introduced himself.
Two weeks later Titus learned he would be going home with Heaven.
“She’s the bestest dog in the world! She’s just like what I asked for,” exclaimed Titus.
On Team Training Graduation Day the Shimabukuru family met Titus and Valerie.
“I was in awe of Titus and his mom, Valerie. Titus deserves the world. He works harder just getting out of bed and going to the breakfast table than I do in a year,” Dawn shares.
With, Heaven, Titus doesn’t have to work quite so hard to make it to the breakfast table.
“As he walks or crawls down the hall in the morning, Heavenly patiently waits by his side. And if Titus falls Heaven licks him and gives him help up. Titus will hold onto her collar, pull himself up and walk along side her. They are best buddies,” says Valerie.
Since 1975, Canine Companions for Independence has changed the lives for over 4,000 people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing follow-up services all free of charge.
Right now there are puppies being born and raised, dogs being trained, and people waiting for their dreams of independence to come true with a four-legged best buddy like Heaven.