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Canine Companions for Independence

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Services, Animals, Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Health, Human Service Organizations, Human Services, Rehabilitative Care

Mission: Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. CCI serves people all over the US with training centers in Northern and Southern California, Ohio, New York, and Florida, as well as dozens of volunteer groups and satellite offices. Visit our website at www.cci.org or call toll-free 1-800-572-2275 to reach the CCI training center in your region.

Target demographics: Trained assistance dogs for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

Direct beneficiaries per year: Over 240 teams placed in 2009.

Geographic areas served: National

Programs: This process includes breeding and puppy raising, training and follow-up, public information, and veterinary expenses. See specific training results below.

Service Dogs: We train golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers (and cross-breeds of the two) to retrieve dropped items, pull wheelchairs, turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and many other tasks for people with limited mobility.
Hearing Dogs: We also train dogs to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing by alerting them to important sounds.
Facility Dogs: We train dogs to work in therapeutic settings such as hospitals, clinics, hospices, schools, and other places where the unconditional love and soothing presence of a loving animal can help people feel better.
Skilled Companion Dogs: We train dogs similar to Service Dogs that work with clients and a third person, usually a parent or caregiver.

Community Stories

35 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Kudos to CCI!!! CCI is a wonderful organization. We have seen first hand how it has helped our son who lost his leg in Iraq. The service dog he received is very helpful to him and is his constant companion. We saw a change in our son immediately after he received his "companion" from CCI. They are now inseparable and go almost everywhere together. It is one of the best things that has happened to our son since his injury. I hope CCI will continue to help other severely injured "heroes" of our US Military. Thank you to all especially the volunteers who spend endless hours training the special dogs. What an awesome way for the volunteers and CCI to give back to these brave men and women who have sacrificed themselves for our freedom.

2 Steve184

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just want to tell you what a fantastic charity Canine Companions for Independence is,not only do we have the very best dog's around,we have some of the most caring professional people working there and awesome volunteers. I am honored to be a small part of such a great organization. Thank You very much.
Steve Hofmaster

Previous Stories
3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Canine Companions for Independence is truly one of the best there is.I am so grateful to be associated with this awesome organization. My efforts as a volunteer,really make my heart full,I've never seen such compassion,and a group as strong,and dedicated as CCI.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

"Sara can you please come here?" CCI graduate Oscar VI came into my life November 2013. He is a black Lab/golden mix. He has taken over many of the chores Sara use to do. I'm in a wheelchair so he makes me independent by opening doors, picking up items I drop on the floor, turns on room lights and he can pull the pull the covers over me. I am greatfull for all the volunteers that bred Oscar with his "O" litter, puppy raisers that prepared him for advanced training, the professional trainers that did the advance training and matching Oscar to me and the amazing few administrators that tie Canine Companions for Independence activities together.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Absolutely wonderful organization! I am thrilled to be part of their mission. I am raising my first of hopefully many puppies for them.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

CCI is the Cadillac of the service dog industry.
I have volunteered as a puppy raiser, breeder caretaker, and board member for over 20 years and know first hand the miracles that these highly trained dogs work in the lives of their disabled partners. They do not charge the recipients for these valuable dogs, who also receive a lifetime of follow up and support.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

My service dog, Andy, allows me to live on my own without help from others. He not only provides physical assistance but also provides me a companion so I don't get isolated. CCI dogs are the best. Andy is my 4th CCI service dog

4 Katelyn2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Great Organization!!! everything is tops. Highly recommend. I received Dario in May of 2015 and he changed my live for the better. He knows how to open doors , pick up dropped items and turn lights on and off . He also does things that come naturally to him like help reduce my anxiety and helps me be more social because people want to meet him .

Review from Guidestar

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

I could never give enough thanks to Canine Companions for Independence and everyone involved with this wonderful organization. My Hearing Dog Tatiana has given me a second chance at independence, happiness and life, and has touched countless lives. My life has been forever changed and saved (literally) because of her. Heroes are not born, but are madeā€¦ And Canine Companions made Tatiana. I can never return the gift I have been given, but I can do my best to keep paying it forward. Thank you CCI!

Review from Guidestar

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CCI is my family and beyond special to me, love!!!

Review from Guidestar

6 Morton S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was given a service dog at no cost to me. Oscar VI helps me be indepandant. He picks up my clothing by name: shirt, socks, undershirt, slippers, etc. He opens drawers, pulls off my socks, and helps me get dressed. Opens and closes doors, turns lights off and on and much more.

Canine Companions for Independence started in California where they breed their own dogs. When these exceptional dogs are 8 weeks old they are sent to one of several regions to initiate their puppy raising and training with volunteers. Then they ascend to advanced training at a Canine Companions for Independence location, Oscars is Orlando, Florida. After 9 months Oscar was ready to be considered for placement with a disabled person that would be helped to be independent. My wife and I went to CCI Orlando for 2 weeks of training to learn how to lead, care for, manage and think like a dog.

Canine Companions for Independence does this all with a very small professional staff of highly motivated and very dedicated people. They provide highly-trained, exceptional dogs at no charge to disabled Veterans and others with disabilities. This is why I recommend CCI.

Review from Guidestar

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Exceptional dogs, exceptional people. I feel LUCKY to be part of such an amazing organization.

Review from Guidestar

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our 12 year old has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and a rate immune disorder. We received our skilled companion working dog in February of 2013. Nickel III has been a Godsend. He's a faithful companion, he can help retrieve objects when our son has bad JRA days and he been a great social bridge for our son.

Review from Guidestar

3 Nancy215

Donor

Rating: 5

From breeders, to puppy raisers, to trainers and vets and full-time staff: there simply isn't a more qualified - people-passionate - assistance-dog organization out there.

Review from Guidestar

3 Cindy145

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I signed up to raise my first puppy in 2013. I turned in May 2015 and look forward to receiving my 2nd puppy in training either end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. What they do for people with disabilities is beyond amazing. Not many organizations offer fully trained dogs free of charge. CCI does and they do support their graduates for the life of the dog.

Review from Guidestar

Previous Stories
4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm currently raising my first puppy for CCI. What a great organization. Raising this pup has made me even more aware of how people with disabilities are treated and how many fake service dogs there are out there. Kudos to CCI for starting the ball rolling on banning fake service dog equipment sales on the internet.

4 Donna218

Client Served

Rating: 5

We received a CCI skilled companion dog in 2007 for my daughter born with spina bifida. The independence she gained was unimaginable. I never would have guessed how her world opened up for her by the addition of a dog. But, CCI dogs are so much more then just a dog. They become extensions of their people. They become their arms, legs, eyes, and ears. The fact that my daughter can tell Gladys II ( lovingly known as Glady) "get mom" and she will run to me and tug my clothes until I follow her back to my daughter is awe inspiring. There are no words to express our gratitude for all the hard work that goes into the raising, training, and placement of these incredible dogs. CCI is simply put, AMAZING!!! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Review from Guidestar

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

My organizations which serves children who are deaf or hard of hearing has been fortunate in receiving a Facility Dog from CCI. This dog is a miracle maker! Children who never smiled, now smile when they see her. Kids who are having a tough day, relax when she is with them. She is an integral part of the curriculum, helping kids solve puzzles, find the right words during speech therapy, encouraging them to be physically active in the play yard. I cannot state strongly enough how great the benefits are from the services of this one dog.

5

Board Member

Rating: 5

Besides being a NER Board of Directors Member for CCI, I am raising my second puppy for them. I cannot think of a better way to serve the community. By volunteering for this wonderful organization I get to see first hand what these exceptional dogs can do for adults and children with a disability. It's by far the greatest joy to witness the remarkable difference it makes in a persons life. Each Recipient receives his/her dog free of charge too!!!! Bravo to CCI for all that they do to help give a person with a disability the independence to live life to the fullest by providing their highly trained assistance dogs. I'm honored to be on the Northeast Regional Board Member and thrilled to be raising another miracle for them.
~Yvonne Dagger
NER Board of Directors Member

Previous Stories
4

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a Canine Companion Board of Director Member, a Puppy Raiser and the President of the Long Island Chapter of Canine Companions. I have proudly been a part of the Canine Companions family for over 4 years now. Canine Companions is a quality non-profit organization that prides and is dedicated to their mission of providing their highly trained Assistance dogs to people with disabilities, FREE OF CHARGE. Relying on donations from volunteers, business, corporations and partnerships Canine Companions is able to continue their mission.

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5

Donor

Rating: 4

After much agonizing over the many worthy charities listed by the Pittsburgh Foundation for its Day of Giving, my daughter chose Canine Companions for Independence, as she was touched by the work and testimonials of many people who have helped disabled people by providing trained assistance dogs.

Sadly though, despite this charity being listed as a non-profit available for matching funds on its web site [ http://pittsburghgives.org/?cat=3&s='' ], we were unable to donate as the Pittsburgh Foundation stated it as unavailable for donating. This was heartbreaking for my daughter, as she looked so forward to give, with the promised matching funds by the Pittsburgh Foundation. If the Pittsburgh Foundation no longer feels that this charity was worthy of receiving donations, I wish it had not listed it as one of the ones available.

6 Jane54

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer puppy raiser for CCI since 2006. I turned in dog #4 for advanced training just last week. CCI has the most wonderful and supportive staff and volunteers. Take a few moments to learn more about this amazing organization that provides "exceptional dogs for exceptional people".

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When you are a volunteer puppy raiser for Canaine Companions for Independence you are continually asked 2 questions: 1. Why is your dog wearing a muzzle? (It's not a muzzle, it's a Gentle Leader and helps to guide his head instead of pulling on his neck and choking him). and 2. How can you give him up? (It's like raising a child - you pour all your love and hard work into them. Then it's time for them to leave the house and go out into the world. You're so proud of all they've accomplished and wish them only the best in their next stage along life's journey). 13 years ago, when I was raising my first puppy for CCI, I worked as a volunteer in one of their regional offices. I was asked by one of the office staff a question that I had not been asked before: what will you do if your puppy makes it through advanced training and is matched with someone you don't think is appropriate for him? Hmmmm. What would I do? I thought about that for a short time and replied that I would then have to readjust my thinking. If the CCI trainers were matching my dog to someone I did not think was appropriate, then they must see something in my puppy and/or in my puppy's new partner that I had missed. The trainers at CCI have had many more years of experience with these dogs than I have. They understand their dogs in ways that I do not. They want the best for their dogs and want all their dogs to be successful. The trainer's decisions were not based on what was best for me - their decisions were based on what was best for their dogs.

As it turned out, my puppy did not graduate, but was released from the CCI program. We have done therapy dog work together for the last 12 years. At 13, he is still visiting an assisted living community and still spreading the word about all the wonderful work that CCI does.

CCI is an organization in which I truley believe. I have volunteered and donated to them for over 20 years. I have met many wonderful staff members, graduates and volunteers - some who have become valuable friends. I have seen first hand the life changing experiences this organization has been responsible for. I'm proud to be a CCI volunteer and proud to spread the word about this exceptional organization.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Canine Companions for Independence for about 17 years. I sm a volunteer, a puppy raiser, and a monthly contributor. I am VERY proud to be associated with this marvelous organization that changes the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained service dogs FREE OF CHARGE. As a "dog person", someone who has not just owned dogs, but trained and competed with them, I can honestly say that their breeding program has resulted in exceptional dogs. Their commitment to their dogs is lifelong. Their efforts to insure that the puppy raiser helps the dog develop and achieve his potential are outstanding. I have seen first hand the difference these dogs make in people's lives, enabling people with disabilities to go to work, do their household tasks themselves, reach their own potential. The volunteers and puppy raisers are also a wonderful group of people who work tirelessly and cooperatively toward the common goals. Enough praise cannot be given also to the trainers and staff. I give this organization the highest rating, deservedly.

Review from CharityNavigator

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with CCI for about a year now. Immediately upon walking into my local chapter headquarters, I could see that this is a very special organization. I was welcomed into the fold by dedicated, compassionate volunteers and made to feel part of the CCI community. I was astounded by how hard these individuals work to help others by providing these loving companions for exceptional people and their families. I have been able to see, first hand, how CCI helps children, adults, and the people who love them. I know it sounds trite, but the CCI community truly is a family, and I consider myself very fortunate to have become involved.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have loved volunteering and working with the fine people at CCI! Not only are the dogs exceptional for exceptional people but the organization itself is exceptional. I am proud to be a part of the community. I will continue to give what I can because you can see money and time being real components of change. Keep going guys, you are great!!!!!

Review from CharityNavigator

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a Volunteer Puppy Raiser for CCI- the people involved in this organization are amazing- the trainers, volunteers and graduates - everyone! To me, volunteering means doing things to benefit others- what was so unexpected is the amount of gratitude everyone in this organization has for its volunteers- this has been an incredible experience for my entire family! So proud to be a part of CCI!!!!

9

Donor

Rating: 1

I was a puppy raiser and a donor for over 7 years. I raised 5 puppies. While I still support the mission to place service dogs with
people with disabilities, I stopped raising puppies for CCI and no longer support the organization via financial donations.

CCI is a very large, in my opinion insular organization. There are some lovely people who work there, who greatly care for the graduate recipients and the dogs they place. This was not my experience with the leadership, who seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge many of the volunteers and to communicate with them in an open and empathic way. I know many former puppy raisers who left feeling hurt and unappreciated by the leadership at CCI and by the graduate recipients of the dogs they lovingly raised.

In the region I volunteered in, there is a group of
volunteers, along with staff in the development department, and several members of the regional board who I, and other volunteers experienced as quite condescending and
rude. I had several personal experiences of being on the receiving end of their bad behavior.
The organization did require
volunteers sign an acknowledgement of expected behavior but while there seems to be a policy on paper, it did not come to fruition in real life. This is the case in other aspects of how the organization is run. CCI provides NO information to a puppy raiser about a dog they raised, once the dog graduates. According to the northwest program manager in an email to me, the exception to this is to let the raiser know when the dog is retired and when the dog dies. I found out quite by accident via a social media page that the first dog I had raised, had been retired, a year previous to the post on facebook. CCI once again did not follow their own policy. No one from the organization contacted me when the dog was retired. Their lack of empathy, the lack of the desire, to extend simple courtesy to me as a volunteer who raised the pup for close to two years, is sad. It just does not matter to those in leadership how anyone feels!

The situation with the development staff and other volunteers while unkind, and annoying, was certainly a manageable one in the broad scheme of things, to serve such a wonderful mission. Sometimes certain people just do not get along and often in life it is best to just stay away from people like this.

The situations where the organization did not follow their own policies was a bit more concerning to me. The longer I stayed with CCI the more I developed concern for the care and handling of some
of the graduate dogs. If the organization was not following policies regarding volunteers and puppy raisers, why would I expect they would do so regarding the graduate dogs?

Most of the graduate teams I met were nice people, who tried their best
to do what CCI had taught them about handling their dog so the team
worked optimally and they met the standards claimed by CCI and those set
by ADI (assistance dogs international). Unfortunately, I also had experience observing dogs not being cared for, nor handled according to these standards. One graduate told me she does not follow CCI rules regarding handling of
her dog unless the CCI trainers were around and in fact I observed her
doing just that, placing her dog in a situation that could have brought
harm to the dog. To me this was disrespectful to puppy raisers, trainers, everyone who worked to get the dog ready for her. But more importantly it was really unfair to the
dog. At the most basic of levels the graduates should be expected to keep their dogs safe from harm.

Shortly after leaving CCI, I received a survey from the national program manager asking about my experience with CCI. When I responded, I was honest, expressing my feelings about the way I, and other volunteers were
treated by some staff and board members. I also conveyed my observations and concern over the care and handling of some of the graduate dogs. I never received a reply from him.

It is important to me that the organization I raise for and financially support be able to not just place large numbers of dogs but that they ensure that all the dogs they place are
handled appropriately and cared for with love and respect once they
leave CCI. The fact that the national program manager never responded to my correspondence about the care of graduate dogs is not acceptable to me, and actually solidified in my mind that my decision stop raising and donating to support CCI was the right one. Maybe my concerns were founded, maybe not, but it seems important for someone in
authority at the organization to at the very least pursue such a matter when it is brought
to their attention. If only to acknowledge the communication and ask which teams there was concern for, so they could follow up. It would have been inappropriate
for me to say something to a graduate about the handling of a dog.
However, CCI staff has a responsibility to be sure all the dogs are cared
for, respected and handled
appropriately. I believe I followed appropriate channels. CCI did nothing. How effective the program is cannot be judged only by how they spend their money and the number of dogs placed.

Raising puppies for service dog work is very rewarding. I would suggest that anyone who wants to participate in volunteering this service look at other organizations than CCI, there are many.

I would suggest that you ask specific questions about how the organization
trains their dogs. One thing I heard many times at CCI is that no dog is forced to
work if they don't want to. However, they do use traditional training techniques including a forced retrieve. For some dog lovers wishing to volunteer as puppy raisers this and some other training practices used may be outside their comfort level. The longer I stayed and the more I learned, the less comfortable I was with some of the practices used. These types of decisions tend to be very personal choices. I am not making a judgement about CCI's training practices, they are the professionals and I respectfully defer to them. I am only making a decision about my comfort level. I heard lots of things at CCI, but what was said and what was actually done were many times two very different things.

Overall, I do think my service was important and changed the lives of the people who received the puppies I raised. I am looking for another organization to volunteer for and continue my service toward this mission. Hopefully wiser for my experience with the last one.

Review from CharityNavigator

4

Donor

Rating: 5

CCI is outstanding! The organization I work for loves to donate and support their work because we appreciate what they do and know that the money is being used responsibly. CCI provides well bred and well trained dogs to people who need them. Keep up the great work!!!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

“Exceptional Dogs for Exceptional People,” is 100% accurate. I have met so many amazing people through CCI, including Graduates, other volunteers & CCI staff. This organization is the best! Canine Companions for Independence puts the safety and happiness of the Person/Dog team first. They never force a dog to work if he doesn’t want to, which ensures the safest placement and a successful team. Every Graduate I met speaks of the incredible gift of independence these dogs bring to them. Keep up the great work CCI.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My husband and I received a facility dog that works with injured servicemen and women at military hospitals, support groups and sports rehabilitation events as part of CCI's Wounded Veteran Initiative. Our facility dog, Tali, lends her support by snuggling with injured troops as they heal in the hospital, she walks with them when they receive a new prosthetic limb and waits for them at the finish line after they compete in their first triathlon. Over the last year we have seen several CCI service dogs placed with permanently injured servicemen and women. Some of these individuals were not able to live on their own without assistance. However, with their assistance dogs, they can now live on their own without a roommate. Independence doesn't mean living alone. Many of these veterans now have "Battle Buddies" as they move on with their lives. We are grateful to have Tali and enjoy watching her as she connects with those in need. The Wounded Veteran's Initiative has and will continue to help our veterans regain independence.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a newer (< 1 year)Puppy Raiser for the Southeast Region of CCI, I can't say enough about the time, effort, love and experience put into this organization's mission by it's volunteers, employees and supporters. I have raised puppies for another service dog organization in the past, but CCI far surpassed my expectations of support, quality, communication and professionalism. They accomplish amazing goals with a huge volunteer base and very dedicated employees. The public graduation ceremonies are a must-see to truly understand the impact these well-trained dogs have on people's lives. They have modern, very clean, climate controlled kennels and their dogs are obviously well kept. Their breeding program is very successful and they have very few genetic issues (i.e., hips) and they track and support the teams throughout their lives. It appears they spend their money very wisely, with a minimum of waste, using volunteers extensively and wisely (and successfully). While the Orlando campus is beautiful, use and function are apparent (no useless decoration) - an example of good use of donated funds.

5

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have watched first hand as a friend raised several dogs as a puppy raiser and then watched her turn them back over to CCI for further training. I have seen the patience and love she gave to these pups. The support she got from CCI as she raised them was awesome. She is able to hand over her trainee every time because she has seen the wonder of these dogs bonding with someone whose lives they can change so dramatically. I have also had the honor of being an adoptive mother to a trainee dog that was released from the program and to see CCI's concern and care over who they let adopt these release dogs. They care about ALL the dogs they breed, not just the ones that go on to make companion status and to me that says it all!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with many nonprofits in the past, and CCI has been by far the best. I am a Volunteer Puppy Raiser. I have been raising Maude II for more than a year now, taking care of her on a daily basis, making sure she's healthy, and teaching her the 30 basic commands. CCI has been incredibly supportive, giving me monthly feeback and answering questions as they arise within the day. Everyone I have met both locally and at our regional office in Oceanside, CA, has been kind, helpful and dedicated to excellence. I have had such a wonderful experience that I've applied to raise a second puppy and cannot wait for his/her arrival. I can't say enough good about CCI...they are truly a wonderful organization.