6,000 Expertly-Trained Dogs Give the Gift of Independence

Canine Companions for Independence® graduates 6,000th assistance dog team November 29, 2018

Shawn Miller is no stranger to the life-changing impact that a highly-skilled assistance dog can provide. He grew up with a Canine Companions® dog by his side to help assist with his Muscular Dystrophy. When his first assistance dog retired, Shawn was partnered with Service Dog Melissa. This new match is Canine Companions’ 6,000th graduate team.

At age 6, Shawn was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscle disease. After meeting a Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog team, Shawn’s family knew they needed to apply for a dog and were later matched with assistance dog Eli. After Eli’s retirement, Shawn, now 20, knew he would benefit from the specialized skills that a Canine Companions service dog would provide as his disease progresses.

“Having a service dog makes me more independent,” Shawn explains. “Canine Companions for Independence has changed my life from feeling out of place to feeling normal and free.”

In November, Shawn and Service Dog Melissa graduated along with 54 other Canine Companions’ assistance dog teams. Melissa was trained by Canine Companions certified training staff in over 40 commands to enhance independence, including retrieving dropped items, opening doors, turning on lights and much more. Since 1975, Canine Companions has provided expertly-trained assistance dogs and ongoing support for children, veterans and adults with disabilities entirely free of charge.

“We’ve reached an important milestone this year by matching our 6,000th assistance dog,” says Canine Companions CEO Paige Mazzoni. “Canine Companions has grown to meet the ongoing need for highly-trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities while maintaining the highest standards of training and ongoing support for teams like Shawn and Melissa.”

You can help give a dog a job. Learn more at cci.org.