Canine Companions for Independence

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Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a non-profit organization that trains and provides assistance dogs.

Canine Companions for Independence.svg


CCI was founded in Santa Rosa, California in July 1975 by Bonnie Bergin as the first program of its kind.[1] Since then, it has grown to a national organization. CCI currently operates in five national regions:

  • Northwest Region: Northern California, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, & Alaska
  • Southwest Region: Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, & Hawaii
  • North Central Region: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, & Western Pennsylvania
  • Northeast Region: New York, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, & Washington DC
  • Southeast Region: Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, & Alabama

Canine Companions for Independence is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities (other than blindness) by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships at no cost to the recipient.[2]

All expenses of the dogs (breeding, raising, and training), are paid for by private donations, such as those from separate foundations, corporations, or individuals, as well as fundraisers. The Lions Project for Canine Companions for Independence (LPCCI) has donated a total of $2 million to the project. In addition, much of the work is done by volunteers. The Lions Project was founded in 1983 to better function as a significant provider of financial and volunteer support to CCI.[3]

The dogs[edit]

CCI trains four types of dogs- service dogs (primarily mobility assistance), skilled companions trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator, hearing dogs for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, and dogs for "facility teams." Facility teams are made up of a dog and partner, who is usually a rehabilitation specialist, educator, or caretaker. Primarily, these dogs exist as highly specialized therapy dogs, and help out in the mental, physical and emotional development of a person in need. These dogs also carry most of the skills of service dogs as well as specialized skills for whatever type of facility the dog will be working in.

Breeding and raising[edit]

CCI employs a breeding program to supply their dogs.[4] They use purebred Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, as well as a cross between the two known as an LGX. As puppies, the dogs go though extensive temperament and medical evaluations before being selected for the breeding program. Then, the puppies selected as breeders are placed with a volunteer breeder/caretaker who is located within a ninety mile radius of their national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. Female dogs' caretakers are responsible for the actual birth of the puppies and taking care of them for the first eight weeks; male dogs' caretakers are responsible for the dogs ready for mating.

When it comes time to raise the puppies, CCI calls upon volunteers for this as well. Volunteers must commit to keeping the dogs for 14 months.[5] They must provide a safe house as well as caring for the puppy from the time it is eight weeks old until it is time to turn them in, generally at the age of sixteen to eighteen months. Volunteers are responsible for the exercise, grooming, feeding, socialization, and all necessary healthcare requirements, such as annual visits, of their puppy. There are about 30 commands taught during this phase. Also, the puppy-raisers are responsible for transportation to return the puppy to the regional CCI center for advanced training.[6]


The six- to nine-month advanced training begins as soon as the dog is returned by the volunteer puppy raisers. Dogs first undergo medical tests, x-rays, and screenings for proper temperament. If the dog does not pass the examinations they are released immediately. The first three months of training, which is referred to as the first semester, reviews what the dogs have learned and then builds upon it. At this stage, the dogs are taught how to retrieve and service dogs begin working around wheelchairs. The second semester, which lasts another three months, concludes with the dogs learning the commands for their final job, such as opening doors and switching on lights. The dogs are also put in real-life situations to determine if they have what it takes to handle the stress.

Team Training is the final phase in the advanced training. At this time the individuals receiving the dogs travel to the regional center that serves their state. All of CCI's services, including the highly trained dogs are provided at no cost to their recipient. However, they are responsible for their transportation to Team Training and the health and basic medical needs of the dogs once they are home. Team Training is a two-week class that teaches the recipients about their new partners. This includes learning about dog psychology, dog grooming and care as well as the commands that the dogs know. Matching the dogs with the people is a very careful process in order to make sure their activity levels and personalities match. At the conclusion of the Team Training, the individuals go through testing and then participate in a graduation ceremony where they officially are given the leash to their new partner.[7]

Six weeks after finishing the training at headquarters, teams must return for follow-up, to ensure the dogs are doing their jobs correctly and there are no problems. CCI dog users may also periodically return for reunions or extra follow-up training at any time. [8]

Notable recipients[edit]

  • U.S. Army Captain James Văn Thạch - first Vietnamese American military adviser to the Iraqi Army; only U.S. servicemember to be awarded the rank of Honorary Brigadier General in the Iraqi Army[9][10] [1]


  1. ^ Bozzo, L. (2010). Service Dog Heroes. Enslow Publishers. ISBN 9780766031999. 
  2. ^ Derr, M. (2004). Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship. University of Chicago Press. pp. 309–311. ISBN 9780226142807. 
  3. ^ 2006, Lions Project for Canine Companions for Independence,
  4. ^ CCI's breeding program
  5. ^ "Canine Companions for Independence". Indianapolis Monthly. November 2000. pp. 107–108. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  6. ^ Puppy-raising for CCI
  7. ^ CCI training
  8. ^ About follow-up training at CCI
  9. ^ "First Vietnamese-American to Serve as a Military Advisor to the New Iraqi Army". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  10. ^ "Two Years in Iraq and Honored as a General". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 

External links[edit]