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.
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.”