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.
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.
Review from #MyGivingStory
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
'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
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”.
Be wary CPL. Take a look at this site.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I received my seizure alert/ medical response dog from Canine Partners for Life 3 years ago. My dog Dreyfus is part of a corp of medical alert dogs trained by CPL to harness their natural ability to predict medical events before they occur....each of these special dogs is a star in their own right! My beautiful Standard Poodle alerts to my many seizures 47 minutes in advance Dreyfus is 100% accurate! CPL has given ME my independence back! Last year I suffered a major stroke. Dreyfus, my superior trained CPL service dog, dialed 911 for me on his special phone. I have been told that because of the quick actions of my service dog that day that I AM STILL ALIVE. That never stops impacting me. If you are looking at this site for the first time, looking for a place to donate money, let me encourage you to donate here. The staff, trainers, and Darlene made my service dog possible for me. Along with many, many donors. And a lot of hours on the trainers and staffs part that they dedicate to make sure that we are all successful -They have a great follow up program for all the graduates, that is where Dreyfus learned how to use the phone that saved my life. I guess they did a good job, because of their support a dog like Dreyfus can push a button that can save a person like me.
I received a seizure alert dog in July 2011. Anonymous seems to have a special vendetta against CPL. The three weeks I attended classes I saw no abuse of any kind. My trainer and others involved with me always showed the utmost concern for the dogs. Not to mention the applicants. I have also returned for graduate support classes and CPL still maintains the highest standards. Without my wonderfuI dog, I would never have regained some of my independence. She has been a lifesaver.
I sat here after reading anonymous review about Canine Partner for Life, out of Cochranville, PA! I like many others am a recipient of CPL's, not only 1 service dog, but 2. My 1st dog I went thru class with back in 2003, and my successor dog in 2007; so I have spent a total of 6 training weeks on that campus.(and hundreds of hours there visiting, volunteering , supporting other classes, etc) Let me tell you , I have NEVER seen any type of rough training, let alone abuse of any dogs, yes corrections, but certainly NOTHING that needed to be reported. Trust me as big of a dog lover as I am if I had seen it, I personally would not only have reported it, I would have opened my mouth to whom ever I saw doing it. I feel the click n treat method that they use is such a humane way to teach the wonderful dogs what we need them to do, but no they are NOT robots MISS ANONYMOUS, and yes, they do make mistakes, and need stern vocal corrections, or what I call that mom's voice as needed. As far as a growling dog, and testing not occurring obviously you have very little experience in even pet training Ma'am, they will test you from a pup on up til the day they pass on, and with the intelligence that these dogs have, even more so; thinking perhaps this dog was smarter than it's 2nd recipient and could have been a good judge of personality?? Yes CPL has at times had dogs not work out with matches for one reason or another, mostly it's due to issues with recipients, bit off more than they could handle, health issues worsening, and even when they can't handle the dog, it can happen but I can tell you that if you were to look at statistics I bet you would find that they have one of the highest success rates in placements and teams that stayed together! I mean after all it is like a marriage of sorts if you think about it. As for wanting reimbursed your money, if I were you, I would stop spending less time online slandering a wonderful organization that has changed so many peoples lives and go find a part time job and earn that $1000 back if you miss it so much ma'am, or if you work already do some OT. For folks reading these reviews, I do agree with this person about one thing in her entire review.......do your research, as I did, and as you do I know you will read and see about the support, professionalism of this organization and family that is gained, our CPL family, that each and every one of us have truly come to love, well most of us. Sincerely, A very PLEASE CPL recipient!
This Anonymous is very wrong about this organization, and I hope that you wil continue to support this wonderful service dog agency. I received my seizure alert dog in 2006 which alerts me to my seizures and helps me with spinal issues so I can ambulate. I am a totally disabled service connected veteran. My wife is also disabled fron a life threatening car accident and this wonderful organization provided her a service dog in 2008. These service dogs cost over $25,000 for training and lifetime support, and they provided two service dogs in our family. This person seems to be a person that should have never applied for a service dog, she seems to planned on getting a machine that would not have need for any for adjustment to their team. It is work for the team to excel and she seems lazy to try as one week you have no idea what your dog can do for you. Besides how about the rest of her class who graduated and have wonderful dogs. As far as the Executive Director and the whole staff I can attest that they recieve reasonable salaries, and no one is getting rich there. The trainers are professionable and have years of experience. I feel hurt that she could try to hurt this organization and deny other disabled the chance to receive a new life with their disabilities. Besides look at the graduates here that are supporting the organization and last week my neurologist at the VA hospital call me for information to reffer a veteran with seizures to them after seeing my dog. Shame on Anonymous for trying to ruin support and with her attitude I hope no agency would give her a service dog as she will quit at the first challege she experiences with the dog.
I was part of the same, Summer 2011, class mentioned by “Anonymous” in an earlier review and feel that the comments are so far from the truth that they made me laugh, except the fact that she gave up on her partner and left Team Training. This made me sad, sad for the dog left behind after thinking she would be his forever partner.
I attended every training class, never late and never leaving early, but somehow I must have missed the “overly harsh correction methods” that she said she witnessed, in fact a lot of the three week team training was dedicated to proper care and handling of our dogs in any given situation, but “Anonymous” may have missed those days when she gave up and left her partner or just wasn’t paying attention.
Having had Labradors as pets for many years prior to applying to Canine Partners for Life for a service dog, I thought I knew a lot about dogs but found myself very impressed with the overall training process and learned a great deal from a very knowledgeable and helpful staff. I can honestly tell you that I’m extremely happy with my partner, the training we received together at CPL and the follow-up to date from the dedicated trainers as well as the Executive Director, who personally worked with me after class one evening to overcome a minor issue I was having.
The difference between how “Anonymous” and I handled our issues is that I addressed our problem, asking how we could collectively resolve it instead of walking away from the program. Before class, the same morning that I voiced my concern, all of the trainers were aware of our issue and they all made it a priority to work on it with extra effort in order to put it behind us, which we did in a matter of days. No torture, no yelling, no “yanking the dog off the floor”, just repetitive work with praise.
I’m not saying that I have “The Perfect Service Dog”, although often I feel he is, but He’s my partner and I’m willing to work with him and he with me, to learn new things, go new places and do things together that we could never do apart.
I have and will continue to highly recommend Canine Partners for Life to anyone interested in a well-trained service dog. Thank God for Canine Partners for Life and the difference they made and continue to make in my life and the lives of many, many others.
My adult son has had epilepsy since he was 6 years old and at 26, he was so isolated and not able to be independent because of the severity of his seizures. We learned about CP4L and his life changed 360 degrees! We visited almost monthly for two years as my son waited to be partnered and we were continuously amazed at the commitment and love shown by everyone involved! The professionalism, care and love that all staff give each and every day to the dogs and clients is something not found in other programs. Trust me, we looked at other programs because when someone looks for a service animal, it is not done lightly or without researching other organizations. I know that CP4L is the best that is out there! When our son was partnered with his service animal, we spent 22 days at CP4L in their Team Training Program and not only was our son totally prepared to take care of his partner, he understood the continued support that he could and would receive from CP4L and received a dog that is so amazingly trained. I am grateful every single day as I watch our son leave the house with confidence; confidence that his dog will give him a heads-up before he is to have a seizure. This allows him to take the Metro and buses around the DC Metro community while attending college. CP4L, their committed board, staff and volunteers give so much love to this program each and every day and I will spend my life being grateful to the gift of life that my son received from them! There's is no greater non-profit out there and certainly, no greater training program for service animals and their partners. Thanks CP4L! [just as a side note, we were in Barnes and Noble this past holiday season and another service animal (from another training program] entered the bookstore and immediately began growling and barking at my son's dog. The partner of the other service animal had to leave the store because he couldn't get his dog under control. My son's partner, never blinked and continued to stand quietly by his side - his training was second to none!]
Canine Partners for Life in Cochranville, PA matched me with a 3 year old black Labrador that they had supposedly trained to assist me with my various physical disabilities. I spent one full week working directly with the dog on basic commands and introductory service skills. The dog’s mental stability and ability to handle the stressors of service work were called into question when he growled at other service dogs and handlers from a distance. The problem continued throughout the week with him growling at people and other dogs and escalated to repeat growling and barking at a gentleman staying in the hotel room adjacent to mine at the end of the week. A staff member at CPL had previously disclosed to me that the dog had growled at voting solicitors at her front door on one occasion, leading me to believe that this behavior was a known issue.
The dog’s behavior was indicative of a dog that is highly reactive to its environment and temperamentally unsuited for the stressful life of a service dog. Staff members at CPL insisted his behavior was normal and that he was stressed and “testing” me to see if he could get away with the behavior. Dogs that are 100% mentally sound and fit for service work do not growl because they are anxious, stressed, or “testing” a new handler. The behavior began less than 72 hours into my training with him – not nearly long enough of a relationship history for him to be testing me at that level.
The dog jumped away from me when I fell instead of bracing the fall as he should have been trained to do. He left numerous, documented bruises on my legs, chest, waist and arms from knocking into me and from attempts to continuously remove his head collar. He was rough taking treats and left scratches and marks from his teeth, as well as bruises, on my hand. On one occasion, he jumped into the air to try to snatch food from me while I was standing. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable for a service dog in any capacity, and dangerous for a service dog that should be providing support to a person with mobility impairments.
It should be noted that the dog had already been matched with a disabled client and graduated through team training one year prior to my invitation to the facility. The previous owner had returned the dog and CPL refused to disclose exactly why, which I found odd. They cited “confidentiality” as the reason (why would a dog need confidentiality?), but a memo from a canine chiropractor in his medical records stated it was because the dog had been “pulling on [the] leash”.
I became concerned for my safety and left the program without completing team training at the end of the first week. Upon my return home, I sent a certified letter to the Executive Director requesting that my monetary donation of $1,000 be returned to me due to the extenuating circumstances. The purpose of that donation was to aid in providing a highly trained, temperamentally sound service dog for my personal use. The dog I was matched with did not meet these criteria. Not only did the Executive Director refuse to return the funds, but she claimed I abandoned the partnership before it could truly develop and said that I had never addressed any of my concerns with the staff. First of all, a dog that is growling as a result of stress less than 72 hours into the partnership in an environment it is familiar with is temperamentally unsound. Period. This was not a behavior that would have improved with time. At the very least, he required remedial training and evaluation by a behaviorist, and even then, the chances he could have returned to a working career were slim. Second, I made multiple staff members and even clients aware of the issues I was having, so her claim that I never said anything is false. When I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the Executive Director replied stating that the monetary donation is only “suggested” and “not required” to attend team training. Clients are required to sign a waiver when making donations emphasizing they are non-refundable and I was told repeatedly by staff at CPL that the donation had to be received prior to the start of team training. Had I been aware it wasn't even required, I would not have made it.
Probably the most concerning part of my experience there was the direct handling I witnessed by the Executive Director herself. In fact, the local humane society was contacted by more than one recipient from the Summer 2011 class regarding the overly harsh correction methods witnessed during team training. The Executive Director yanked a client’s service dog off the floor (all four paws) by its prong collar when it tried to eat food off the ground. She and the staff encouraged me to correct my dog’s growling behavior, and the Executive Director even offered a demonstration during a lecture period as to how we should correct our dogs if they growled. She called her personal service dog to the front of the class, grabbed its face and harshly scolded it when it had done nothing to warrant the correction. The dog began to tremble and shook with its tail tucked when she called on it to serve as a demo subsequent times for the next few lectures. Those with advanced knowledge and understanding of canine behavior and training know that a growling dog should never be corrected, as doing so lowers the threshold of more serious responses such as biting.
Leaving CPL was not a decision I took lightly because it took a lot of time and money to prepare for the trip there. I consulted with two private dog trainers, a behaviorist, a different service dog agency, and two Assistance Dogs International board members. Not one person I spoke with condoned any of the behaviors or actions I witnessed from the dogs or the staff/trainers at CPL. I was applauded for leaving behind what I strongly felt was a "four-legged liability". I had been fooled by previous recipients into thinking that CPL had an upstanding reputation and that its size and experience would prove to provide me with a well-trained partner. I was absolutely floored at the things I witnessed on their campus and cannot, in good faith, recommend them to anyone.
I strongly encourage anyone disabled who is interested in adding a service dog to their life to thoroughly research programs and trainers before committing to working with one. Poke around online and speak with clients. I spoke with several CPL recipients prior to applying and it wasn't until after I left and reported my experience that they commented that their dogs "did/do that too" except they were led to believe the behaviors were ok so they didn't mention them to me.
The behaviors I witnessed were not isolated to my dog during the Summer 2011 team training. Several clients went home with dogs exhibiting behavior similar to mine, with CPL’s assurances that it was all normal and part of the adjustment period. I lost a lot of money in an attempt to improve my quality of life, including transportation and lodging fees, and it angers me that other unsuspecting clients are being partnered with dogs that may not be temperamentally or physically sound for the stressful life of service work.
I encourage potential donors and volunteers to reconsider donating money and time to organizations that engage in practices like the ones I described here. Many times, service dog agencies unintentionally (or intentionally) take advantage of the fact that disabled clients have never owned a dog before and they attempt to convince them that abnormal behaviors are “normal” and “acceptable”. Canine Partners for Life may just be grossly misguided, but I definitely felt that they tried to take advantage of me. Fortunately, the dog I left behind was not re-matched for a third time. I only wish CPL would refund my donation at the very least so that I could pursue a temperamentally sound dog from a more reputable trainer.
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. Because of this, we are unable to verify the events described in the review, and are unable to respond directly to this individual and their comments. 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.
Review from CharityNavigator
CPL is an AWESOME organization, I have been blessed to have received a Seizure alert Service Dog from then in Oct. 2002. They were there for me from the application process through the passing of my great service dog in March. I actually still keep in contact with them as they are helping me to decide when is the best time to get a successor companion. I can vouch for the fact that any money given this fantastic organization is primarily usesd for the training and everyday care of these fantastic dogs. The amount of money that you see that's given to the founder and President Darlene Sullivan is not much at all because this woman has actually slept at this facility when people threatened to let all of the dogs loose before they had their security cameras installed and during team training especially she and the rest of the staff are practically there 24/7 either at the facility or via phone for the recipients and their families. This organization is the only one that I have known that continues to help their recipients and companions for years after they've graduated through even the death process of a companion, and they are completely genuine when they are hurting for your loss, I know this to be true. Not only have I been a recipient but I have also donated money to them whenever I have had the opportunity to do so because I want someone else to have the same opportunity that I was blessed to have with CPL. If you want to be able to help people with all sorts of disabilities be able to have more of an opportunity to have an independant life you wouldn't be able to find a better organization then Canine Partners for Life.
Review from CharityNavigator