This article is from the Service Dogs FAQ, posted to rec.pets.dogs newsgroup. Maintained by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
CCI was founded in 1975. They estimate that each of their dogs takes about $20,000 to train, a cost covered by donations and volunteer work. It is a national-wide organization with many regional chapters.
National Headquarters P.O. Box 446, 2965 Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-0446. 707-577-1700 voice; 707-577-1756 TDD; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SW Regional Center PO Box 4568, Oceanside CA 92052. 760-754-3300 Voice; 760-754-3308 TDD
NC Regional Center 4989 State Route 37 East, Delaware, OH 43015-9682. 614-548-4447 V/TDD
NW Regional Center 1215 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95407-6834. 707-579-1985 V/TDD
SE Regional Center P.O. Box 547511, Orlando, FL 32854-7511. 407-834-2555 V/TDD
NE Regional Center P.O. Box 205, Farmingdale, NY 11735-0205. 516-694-6938 V/TDD
This organization is involved in training dogs to assist handicapped people. They train signal dogs for the deaf, and dogs for physically disabled or developmentally disabled persons.
Canine Companions for Independence has provided highly skilled assistance dogs for people with disabilities since 1975. CCI started as a small, at-home organization and has grown into a dynamic non-profit agency with five regional centers nationwide.
A Canine Companion's specialized training starts in a volunteer puppy raiser's home between 7 and 8 weeks of age. The puppy raiser is responsible for the young dog's care, socialization, and the teaching of basic commands. At about one year of age, the dog is returned to a CCI regional training center for six months of advanced training by a professional CCI instructor. The dog is then ready for an intensive two-to-three week training camp where its new owner learns to work with a fully trained dog.
It costs more than US$20,000 to breed, raise, and train each Canine Companion, yet recipients pay only a US$25 application fee and US$100 for training seminar supplies. The dog is provided completely free of charge. CCI depends entirely on donations; it does not receive government funds. CCI also relies heavily on the dedication of its many volunteers, who play a vital role in CCI's mission to provide exceptional dogs for exceptional people.
The breeds CCI uses for service and social dogs are black and yellow Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Lab/Golden Retriever mix. CCI is moving away from using German Shepherds for two reasons: first, a lot of the public view (and fear) German Shepherds as "police" or "guard" dogs, and second, German Shepherds bond very strongly to people and the program is difficult on them because first they form a strong bond to their puppy raiser, then to their trainer when they go back to CCI, and then to their eventual handicapped owner. For signal dogs they use Corgis and Border Collies.
CCI will work with people in need of assistance to determine if a properly trained dog can provide that assistance. Dogs can be taught to retrieve a variety of things -- even to distinguish between specific items -- and to manipulate a variety of objects. Monkeys have been tried for this purpose, as they are more dexterous. However, they are not as reliably trainable and are very expensive, so dogs present a much more practical alternative. Given some extensions, such as rope handles on doors and light switches, dogs can give a disabled person complete mobility within her or his home.
CCI finds and trains a variety of dogs for different forms of assistance: hearing dogs, physically disabled assistant dogs, even as therapy dogs. They are all neutered, as with guide dogs. People who are to receive one of the dogs are required to attend a two-week seminar to learn how to communicate and care for their assistance. As needed, the people and their dogs are provided with permits that identify the dogs as licensed canine companions -- this is enough to gain undisputed entry into most places, as with the more well-known Seeing Eye dogs.