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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Training, Animals, Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Epilepsy, Health, Human Services

Mission: To increase the independence and quality of life of individuals with mobility impairments, primarily disabilities and seizure disorders, by providing professionally trained service dogs and support services. Each dog will be trained to meet the specific needs of individual recipients. Our support services shall ensure that our teams perform in a manner that promotes the welfare of the recipient, canine, and public. Our goal is to establish a lifetime bond between the recipient and the dog. Our efforts will be focused on, but not limited to, an area within a 250-mile radius of Cochranville, Pennsylvania.

Community Stories

19 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Argos is an amazing seizure-alert dog that completely changed the life of his teenage companion,Hunter. I have watched my son, Hunter struggle with seizures due to having a stroke when he was 11. Hunter'a life went from being a 'normal' teenager to having uncontrolled seizures with injuries quite often. He was falling a lot and having to get stitches, breaking things, and just being extremely embarrassed of not being able to control his life anymore. It was devestating. We started researching how we could help our son get back to living and enjoying life. We decided to apply to Canine Partners for Life in Cochranville,Pa.
Www k94life.org
All of their dogs are tested to see if they will alert to someone who actually has seizures. This was a big plus in helping us make our decision to choose them. After lots of research, applying, fund raising, and then waiting for that special call, Hunter was finally matched up with his seizure-alert dog, Argos. All I can say is, wow, what a match!! Annie(trainer) decided to put Argos with Hunter because they are both so loving and personable. It was instant love. We spent 3 1/2 weeks at CPL for training so Hunter could learn how to take care of Argos. It was a very intensive, serious, and educational experience. Hunter became Argos' partner for life that summer. The bond they have created in the past year is unbelievable. Argos gives about. 5 min alert before Hunter has a seizure. He runs his face all over Hunter's thighs. Hunter knows he has to pay attention to Argos so he will not get injured. Argos attends 10th grade with Hunter at our local high school. If Argos alerts, they go to a safe place and sit until after the seizure and if help is needed it is given. Hunter has again become the happy boy he used to be. He is confident again, can go outside on his own, goes off with friends now and is becoming more independent thanks to Argos. The great thing about Argos is that CPL trains all their dogs to do about 10 tasks so that they can help their person with daily things. Argos helps Hunter with balance, tugging open doors, picking up and carrying items and other tasks. They are never a part. If Hunter does not feel well he can tell his dog ton'get mom' and Argos will find me so I can help Hunter. My promise to my son was that when he got his alert dog, I would let him try to have as normal teenage life as possible trusting them to work together as a team. I am proud to say I am still living up to my promise and watching these two continue to amaze me as well as others. I thank CPL everyday for an amazing program who not only trains many types of service dogs but also offers continued support forever. They are a wonderful organization who is all about changing a persons life for the better with the assistance of a service dog.
Www.k94life.com

Review from #MyGivingStory

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Each Team Training I observe, graduation I attend, and the many recipients I have met is what moves me to give. These quality service dogs and/or home companion dogs give independence to and change people's lives in a profound way. It is beyond heartwarming to see a recipient venture out of their house for the first time in a long time, walk up and down stairs, go the mall with their kids, walk on the beach, spend time on their own (with their dog) without having to have a family member or friend there constantly, etc. Families of children with autism speak of the calmness a home companion dog brings to their household. Their child can sleep through the night for the first time. The list goes on and on. This is definitely a class-act service dog organization that I am proud to volunteer for and donate to!!

Review from #MyGivingStory

2 Edward C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

'Canine Partners for Life' helped restore a 'level-of-normalcy' in my life.

My name is Edward Crane and I am an individual who is fifty-eight (58) years old, and the first thirty years of my life, I was healthy, active and on a great career trajectory to success. Then, suddenly in 1987, I experienced my first 'grand mal seizure' and it was the onset of Epilepsy for me, which changed my life forever. I continued to work for the next fourteen years, until the frequency and severity of my seizures forced me to go out on disability in (2001). This was a profoundly sad moment in my life.

The scariest part of 'grand mal seizures' is that you never feel them coming on, they strike without warning. You simply collapse, commonly resulting in injury. After regaining consciousness, you don’t know what happened. Thus, Epilepsy easily imprisons people, removing them from the real world. This neurological disorder did it to me, depression set in, and this was an ongoing battle of my life for fourteen years. I had brain surgery performed in (2003) to help reduce the frequency of my seizures, but my Epilepsy continued to control my life.

Shortly after that, I was introduced by a friend to a non-profit organization, called: “Canine Partners for Life” (CPL) who raised and trained assistance dogs. It detailed the wonderful work that these dogs do for disabled individuals, such as: retrieving objects that are out of a person’s reach, opening and closing doors on command, turning light switches on and off, providing balance and support, assist bed-dependent individuals to move, assist with dressing and undressing, provide stability on stairs, take purchases and wallets to a cashier, seizure alerts, cardiac alerts, and much more.

Over the past eleven (11) years I have been partnered with “assistance dogs” that have positively changed my life forever. My current partner is an eight (8) year old, cream Labrador retriever, named: “Alepo” and we have been together as a team for three (3) years now. He warns me in advance of my seizures and he assists me walking and prevents me from falling. He is truly amazing.

'Canine Partners for Life' is truly an amazing and i am grateful to them for helping me lead a normal life again.

Review from #MyGivingStory

Previous Stories
4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My Canine Partners for Life Story: I am an individual who is fifty-seven (57) years old, and the first thirty years of my life, I was healthy, active and on a great career trajectory to success. Then, suddenly in 1987, I experienced my first grand mal seizure and it was the onset of epilepsy for me, which changed my life forever. I continued to work for the next fourteen years, until the frequency and severity of my seizures forced me to go out on disability in (2001). This was a profoundly sad moment in my life.

The scariest part of grand mal seizures is that you never feel them coming on, they strike without warning. You simply collapse, commonly resulting in injury. After regaining consciousness, you don’t know what happened. Thus, epilepsy easily imprisons people, removing them from the real world. This neurological disorder did it to me, depression set in, and this was an ongoing battle of my life for fourteen years.

Shortly after that, a friend showed me a TV program featuring the non-profit organization, called: “Canine Partners for Life” (CPL). It detailed the wonderful work that “service dogs” do for disabled individuals, such as: retrieving objects that are out of a person’s reach, opening and closing doors on command, turning light switches on and off, providing balance and support, assist bed-dependent individuals to move, assist with dressing and undressing, provide stability on stairs, take purchases and wallets to a cashier, seizure alerts, cardiac alerts, and much more. I was truly impressed and contacted “CPL” and arranged an interview.

After recovering from brain surgery in (2003), I went back to “CPL” and they introduced me to my first seizure alert dog. Amazingly, during our first meeting, she warned me in advance of an oncoming seizure. I laid down on the floor and she waited the seizure out by my side. That positive moment, with my first ever advanced seizure warning, changed my life forever. My first dog and I were a team for seven years. Her ability to warn me of oncoming seizures helped me take back control of my life. When she passed away in (2010), it was a staggering loss, that created a vacuum in my life.

In 2012, I traveled again to “CPL”, this time to meet my successor full-service seizure alert dog. At that time he, was a 5-year-old male, cream Labrador retriever. We trained together and graduated from (CPL) Team Training classes in the “Summer of 2012” and have been together since, almost three years now.

He warns me of oncoming seizures with complete accuracy and reliability, quickly alerting me and getting me to react. He isn’t satisfied until I lie down so he can place his front legs across my waist, and he won’t let me up until my seizure is entirely over. He gets up and licks my face, signaling that it’s safe for me to slowly get back up.
These days, without warning, I also frequently lose my balance. But I keep a good grip on the harness that he wears to provide me the necessary support through these unexpected challenges. This prevents me from falling and spares me many possible injuries and broken bones. Thanks, (CPL).

In my case, over the past fourteen+ years, both dogs have helped restore my confidence and allowed me to deal with my disability in a positive manor. Advance warnings of seizures prevents epilepsy from controlling my life, and I know firsthand just what a tremendous help a “service dog” is: physically, psychologically, and emotionally, each and every day of my life.

It’s a true partnership in the face of a tough physical battle. For me, it means freedom. It means my life has been “restored to normalcy”. My dogs have given my family back much of the freedom they sacrificed to help me with my disability.

I continue to have seizures, chronic head pain, balance problems, and struggles with side effects from the many medications that I take. But, I also get out of the house, travel, and enjoy life, thanks to: my “service dog” and my family & friends. God bless my “canine partner” and “Canine Partners for Life”.

From a life-shattering disability and depression to reclaiming my life, I am now the most enthusiastic advocate for “Service Dogs” you’ll ever meet. I know that there are many people just like me, with their own stories of physical tragedy and triumph with their “Service Dogs” from “CPL”.

Remember this important fact, that: “Service Dogs restore a level of normalcy in a disabled individual’s life - they are a true miracle.” Thanks, “CPL”.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

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6

Client Served

Rating: 1

This organization placed a sick dog with a client (with my friend). She fundraised for months and worked so hard to go to CPL from another state to get a service dog. They brushed off his health issues as minor (when he broke out in an episode during training, they said it was no big deal), but these health issues cost my friend over $1,000 in vet expenses in their first year together alone. She took him to specialist after specialist trying to get his illness under control --and CPL offered NO support whatsoever in regard to his illness --though there were records of him having this issue in his vet records from before placement. Since he was placed with her with this condition, CPL should have helped with veterinary expenses since they placed a sick dog with her. The trainers and staff continued to just brush off her concerns --saying that, if she couldn't afford his costly treatments (which, by the way, rendered him unable to work), that she should just return him to the program. I watched my friend pour everything she had into trying to make her dog better.

Yet he kept breaking out in rashes over and over. He had to be put on steroids and special creams over and over which made him feel lousy and made him unable to provide the assistance he was trained to provide.

She took him to the veterinary college several times to try to find an answer as to why her friend kept getting so sick and the cause of these recurrent rashes. The answer was an autoimmune-type issue. They tried several management techniques without success --he kept breaking out. No matter what expensive limited ingredient diet she fed. No matter what pills or cream she was given by the vets at the vet school to try. He just was not improving.

She had to make the most heartbreaking decision of her life in returning her partner to CPL. The specialists said he would never be cured --that he would struggle with his medical issues his whole life and recommended she return him, stating that maybe if he wasn't working in public anymore that his exposure would be less --and there would be less stress on his body. Under the strain of mounting veterinary bills and finally reaching a breaking point where she had to do what was best for the dog she loved, she returned him to CPL. He was later released from the program and adopted out (after they told my friend at first that they planned to place him out again as a service dog with someone else --my friend had to beg them not to place him out again, but to do what was best for him and find him a loving home where he would not have to work in public anymore and where they could meet his medical needs and manage his disease).

CPL seriously breached my friend's trust. The program that was supposed to be there for her and support her and her dog after graduation, yet did not --they stepped back and let them flounder. Until they address the issues that are popping up in their breeding lines (producing dogs with severe allergies and I'm sure other health issues like my friend's dog), I cannot recommend them as a service dog provider.

Sundance D.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a part of the Fall Class in 2012. Sundance has been a miracle to me since day one, I loved Team Training even though sometimes I would get frustrated or tired there was always someone (trainer, classmate, or support person) there to help/encourage you to move forward. In those 3 weeks I gained my confidence back, made forever friends (even though I only knew them for 3 weeks, it feels like i've known them for years!), & didn't faint once thanks to Sunny! I remember being so scared to share journals, but once I did I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. During our training hurricane Sandy hit... boy was that scary, but in some ways I wasn't as afraid as I usually would have been because of Sundance! I just can't even fully put into words how much CPL has changed my life! I don't know where I would be if it weren't for Sundance and the support from CPL. They taught us all so much during those 3 weeks, trust me it's worth going to an organization to get your service dog! Not only do you get the information you need to make a great partnership even better, you have people there who understand you, who finish your sentences sometimes because they too have gone through that, you also have a great staff there to support you when you are having some bumps in the road, and you have Graduate Support classes you go to each month or so to go back over some skills, share problems/experiences, & meet new/old teams!
I would recommend this to everyone that has a disability! It will be the best decision you will ever make! Like I said, If I didn't have SUndance I don't know where I would be, and on top of that, I never would have graduated with my (high school) class in 2013, or finished my last year of dance, or even have the courage to leave the house often (because I didn't know when I was going to faint). Now that I have Sunny, i've graduated, finished my last year of dance, and I'm more confident to go out and do things!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I started as a puppy home in 1998, and later in 2006 became the recipient of a service dog who helps me with mobility and is also a medical alert dog. This is an outstanding organization which holds both the dogs' and recipients' welfare in utmost importance. The Director, trainers and staff have always shown love and respect to CPL's dogs. No puppy or dog is "made" to be a service dog - some are released within their two training years for medical reasons or because they just don't want to work as service dogs. If you are thinking of accepting the responsibility of being a Canine Partners for Life recipient, please know that team training is a stressful time. And, it may take some time for the dog/human team to comfortably work together. It took me around 8 months to recognize what my dog was doing to alert me. Even though I had trained the puppies for many years, I was totally blown away at how positively life-changing becoming a Canine Partners for Life team would be. I recommend this group highly.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been dog training since 1997 when Canine Partners for Life teamed with my first service dog. At that time it was run out of the Executive Director's home but they still exhibited an extremely professional approach to service dog training, covered ever possible aspect of dog health, behavior and training. I returned to CPL for my second service dog and was placed in the Summer 2011 team training class. I found the same professionalism enhanced by an even more organized and more thorough lesson plan.

The 2011 class was twice the size of the 1997 class but I felt like I had more time to talk to the trainers and the Director. I had some real concerns about some issues at home and they worked with me to find solutions. I had to leave training early because of needing emergency surgery, and while I was allowed to bring my dog home until I could return for the fall class, the Director had me sign an addendum to their usual contract that listed several requirements so they were assured that I was handling my dog safely in public and private. Safety is paramount!

I believe Canine Partners for Life is one of the best programs out there in terms of the quality of dogs and their training and of their genuine desire to make the best teams possible. I applied to 5-6 organizations when I first starting looking for a service dog, and actually interviewed with one other. I have seen service dogs that were owner trained and that came from other programs so I feel very confident in my assessment.

As I said CPL started me on my training journey but I worked with trainers locally for a 18 months when I brought Kia home. I read and watched videos about training to help me and my dog. Now I've started the process again with Magee. It is a commitment.

If you decide to apply for a dog from CPL, don't expect miracles. Don't expect you won't have to work during team training and beyond. Dog training is not a one shot and you're done deal. It's a life-long commitment to your dog, honing skills and teaching new ones. Although the staff tries to match you with a suitable dog, unless you go and visit multiple times in person before you're assigned a dog, all they have to base their judgements on are your essays, your application and your video interview. If you don't represent your lifestyle and disability accurately, you may not get the dog you need.

I'm sorry Anonymous and Speaking Out feel they were treated badly and misled by Canine Partners for Life. I was there but do not share their same perceptions of what they say they witnessed. Not every group will meet every person's needs. I hope they can get the help they need somewhere.

1 Rachel38

Client Served

Rating: 5

FYI, JessicaHarlingen posted on Jan 3rd 2012 and then psted the exact same review under the name of SpeakingOut on April 30th 2012. CPL is a REALLY GREAT organization! I was partnered with my service dog in fall 2011, and the relationship has changed my life. I use a wheelchair, and I am mostly blind. I did a lot of research about service dogs and the organizations which train them. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into before I took on the responsibility. I spoke to a number of organizations who wanted nothing to do with me because of my two, severe disabilities. CPL did not even blink when I told them. I wanted an assistant dog, not a guide dog. They were fine with that.
On my first visit to CPL, I was impressed with the cleanliness of the facility, and the gentleness of every dog there. I could really tell that the people at CPL care about the dogs. They feed them high quality food, give them lots of exercise, use kind treatment/training methods, and love on the dogs as parents love on their children. My favorite part of the training facility is the “cuddle room”. Volunteers come very frequently to sit with, pet, and love on the dogs. These dogs have lots of work to do, and so they deserve to be pampered a lot.
I was matched with a playful, loving, and highly intelligent yellow lab. This dog was partnered with another recipient before me, but the recipient did not feel he was ready for the commitment of a service dog.
My girl is amazing. She learns quickly, and loves fiercely. She is still a dog, though. Sometimes she is so excited to see one of my friends that she forgets herself in her eagerness to say hello. Sometimes she barks at the sound of my neighbor’s door closing, and sometimes she nips my toes in her eagerness to help me tug my socks off. She loves to sniff the ground, and she loves to play fetch with a ball. One time she pooped in a place she was not supposed to poop in, but no one is perfect, including my amazing canine partner.
CPL was very supportive when I had a terrible experience at an internship placement and the advised me on how to resolve issues after training. In fact, the first week after training, they wanted to hear from me every day. Then the checks went to once a week, and now I check in whenever I have an issue, question, or good report. The staff is very accessible, and they make me feel like I matter.
CPL has become a large part of my life. They offered hope to me. I now know what it’s like to have help laying at my feet waiting for the next thing. Myg irl loves to work, and she knows her stuff. Does she test me? Oh Yeah! You better believe it! She started testing me the day we started team training. Everyone knew that she was the dog who would not remain lying down for more than a moment. The staff encouraged and advised me. By the end of training, my dog had realized I would always correct her and she did not test as much.
I love the click and treat training method, and so does my dog. The prong collar is to be used for strict correction only, and it does not hurt the dog. It is simply a bit uncomfortable. Often times, I just have to hold the prong collar for my girl to know I mean business. The prongs never draw blood or even leave marks. In fact, I have felt what it it’s like for the prongs to press into my arm.
As for the story told by Anonymous about the executive director scolding her dog, I remember when this happened at my team training. The director’s dog had a very sensitive personality and would get spooked at small things. It was simply her personality to be sensitive to correction. The executive director’s dog did become nervous, but then relaxed when her human partner spent time petting and loving on her in order to demonstrate her love. The demonstration of correction certainly had no lasting effects on the dog and did not make the dog love the director any less. The dog was still overjoyed to work and to be with her partner.
CPL dogs love their jobs and their partners. They are still imperfect creatures, though. Just as you correct a child for misbehavior you need to correct a dog. Furthermore dogs will test you, sometimes right away. They are not robots, but they are wonderful. My dog’s tail is always wagging because of her joy to be alive and working. I look forward to the future with my dog by my side.

6

Client Served

Rating: 1

I have been involved with Canine Partners for Life for several years. I have personally witnessed abusive training practices as well as severe misinformation being presented by the trainers during Team Training. I witnessed the Executive Director, Darlene Sullivan, use her personal service dog to demonstrate "how to give a proper correction" --she grabbed her dog's face and yelled at her --the dog was shaking with her tail tucked --she had done nothing wrong and would stand and shake when called for any subsequent demonstrations.

I witnessed the Executive Director lift a dog off the ground by her prong collar (all 4 paws) for eating
a muffin off of a chair. Clients were advised to harshly correct a growling dog by yanking on the prong collar and/or grabbing the dog's face and yelling. That is a good way to get bitten and just teaches the dog not to give a warning (growl), resulting in a higher risk of a bite without warning. Trainers told students to yank the prong collar if their dog would not retrieve --making training sessions stressful and causing several dogs to shut down.

Several dogs who barked and growled at other dogs/people/sounds (sound sensitivity/reactivity) were allowed to graduate. One dog who pooped on the train trip into Philadelphia (and subsequently had to wear a Thunder Shirt to calm him because he was so anxious) still was allowed to graduate --even though the dog was exhibiting severe stress signals when working in public. I saw another recipient's dog wearing a Thunder Shirt as well. A dog that has to wear a Thunder Shirt to function in public is not suited to be a service dog --the dog is stressed and anxious and it is cruel to make the dog work. Anyone with a basic knowledge of dog psychology and training would know how to read dogs' body language for signs of stress/agitation and would not choose to flood the dog (force it to work without taking steps for desensitization), which causes more problems and doesn't fix the underlying issues.

In a past graduating class, a dog developed seizures during Team Training and the team was still allowed to graduate and go home without knowing if medicine was effective or not.

Canine Partners for Life is not an organization I can in good conscience recommend to anyone. They use outdated and inhumane training methods and allow unsuitable dogs to graduate from their
program, which does not paint a good picture for other service dog teams and organizations.

Comments ( 1 )

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amjk94life 10/04/2012

If someone has a question or concern about the Canine Partners for Life (CPL) program, we are more than willing to address it on an individual basis. In this instance, however, since the reviewer chooses not to use his/her real name, we do not know how or even if they have ever been associated with CPL, either as a program participant or as a volunteer. Therefore we do not know what this review is based on and are unable to respond directly to this individual. At CPL we take our commitment to our dogs and our program participants very seriously. We were one of the first organizations to be accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the worldwide governing body for service dog organizations. ADI has developed very strict criteria for the care and training of dogs in service programs, which is why being accredited by them is so important. CPL meets the ADI’s criteria and very often exceeds them. Thank you.