What is Canine Companions for Independence?
The number of individuals living with one or more disabilities increases every year in our country and throughout Texas. These disabilities may be physical, cognitive, developmental, or a combination of any and all of them. Among the challenges individuals affected by these disabilities encounter in their daily lives are the ability to maintain a level of self-sufficiency, the lack of education among the general population about disability awareness and feelings of isolation and incompetency.
The mission of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs, free of charge, and offering ongoing support to these teams to ensure quality partnerships throughout the service life of the dog.
These incredible dogs help children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities to enhance their independence, create social bridges and improve their quality of life. The service dogs help their owners with daily tasks such as pulling wheelchairs, turning light switches on and off, retrieving dropped items such as keys or cell phones, opening and closing doors and drawers and many other tasks. These dogs are offered at no charge. CCI places assistance dogs with individuals ranging in age from as young as 5 years old to senior citizens.
CCI's South Central Region exclusively serves Texas and plans to create a series of outreach activities in Lubbock and the South Plains. These events will educate area residents and increase awareness about their assistance dog program and opportunities to engage with CCI as prospective applicants, volunteers, and puppy raisers. They will also discuss the value and benefits that their dogs can bring to the lives of individuals with disabilities, provide education, related to disability awareness and to recruit potential candidates including, children, veterans and other adults with disabilities who can benefit from their dogs to apply for CCI services as well as new volunteers.
Canine Companions for Independence in Action
Imagine if you couldn't open doors, pick up items off the floor, or turn on and off the lights on your own. Imagine needing the help of others to perform daily tasks. This is reality for Lubbock resident and Texas Tech University alumna, Chelsey.
Chelsey lost both her legs below the knee after a bacterial infection. She began to rely on using prosthetics and a wheelchair. Chelsey's independence in life was restricted now due to her limited mobility. A few years later Chelsey learned about CCI. After applying for the program, Chelsey was placed on a waiting list, and in 2015, was paired with her service dog, Pablo.
Pablo gives Chelsey more independence and the courage to tackle new tasks. With Pablo by her side, Chelsey returned to Texas Tech University to finish her degree in finance. Chelsey is a recent graduate who now works in finance and lives independently. Not only is Pablo her service dog, but he is also a constant companion, as well as a conversation starter with others who may have focused on Chelsey's disability, but are now more aware of her as a person.
Lubbock residents Kaitlyn and Julie became volunteer puppy raisers for CCI with the hope that the puppies they are raising will one day give someone independence, just as Pablo does for Chelsey. Chelsey and Pablo have spent three incredible years together and are ready for many more.
Photo credits of Chelsey and Pablo, and Kaitlyn and Fanta from Facebook.
For more information on CCI, please call (214) 259-4700 or visit them online at http://www.cci.org/locations/south-central/ .