Companions for Life
“I was dependent, and I am now independent. I was lonely, and I now have a best friend. I was looking for something to do with my life, and I have a purpose and a goal now.”
Those are the words of Wallis, a graduate of the Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) matching program - Wallis now lives and works with her assistance dog constantly by her side. Her story is one of many CCI success stories, all of them well earned. Every puppy that goes through the program represents years of time, energy and love. A single dog requires over $45,000 in training and resources to become a service animal, but the puppies are always given to their new companions completely free of charge.
This incredible generosity is made possible by the network of volunteers who make sure each puppy grows up to be capable and ready for service. For these men and women, seeing graduates live independent, happy lives with their furry friends is what makes it all worthwhile.
Epic’s Donna Kelley has been volunteering as a CCI puppy-raiser for over a decade now and has her own success stories to tell. Seven years ago, Donna raised a puppy named Devline, who went on to be placed with Skyler - a little girl living with muscular dystrophy. Skyler befriended the pup right away, and now Devline goes with Skyler everywhere, even assisting her in underwater physical therapy. Donna is currently raising another puppy named Kala, who's in the early stages of her training. Because human interaction in a variety of different environments is such an important part of puppy training, Kala accompanies Donna to work every day. She will eventually go on to be a lovable companion for someone else in need.
"A single dog requires over $45,000 in training and resources to become a service animal, but the puppies are always given to new companions free of charge."
CCI gives service animals to people of all ages, with a wide range of disabilities, including many wounded veterans. This year, they will graduate more than 300 human-animal teams. CCI volunteers offer up their time and resources, and a whole lot of puppy love, because they believe that no one should have to fight the battle of disability alone.
Mark Harrington, Author