Most of us have owned dogs or know people that own dogs. If you're a dog lover, you know how these animals can enrich your live in a way that might not make much sense if you're not a "dog person." I grew up with dogs. But the family animals that I grew up with weren't really mine, and so they stayed mostly in the periphery of my life. About 12 years ago a little fellow we named Bob became a very large part of my life. My children were getting older, my husband was traveling for work and this little Shih Tzu helped ease my transition into this new season of my life. I had read that owning a pet improves your health and mood, and I became a believer.

What I was not overly familiar with was the actual necessity of dogs to people with certain physical and emotional challenges. I became aware of the Canine Assistants program in May of 2017 by accident. A volunteer of mine was serving at an event and brought along her service dog in training, Betty Lou. My initial reaction was, “How is my volunteer going to be able to serve at this event effectively with thousands in attendance with a dog in tow?” But all my concerns were abated once I took the time to learn about Betty Lou and Canine Assistants. Once I understood a little more about the program, I knew that I wanted to support this organization.

Canine Assistants’ mission is to educate dogs and the people who need them, so they may improve the lives of one another. They believe that dogs who are asked to improve the lives of people deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and kindness. They want the relationships they facilitate between people and their working dogs to serve as the model for all relationships between dogs and people.

According to their website, “Canine Assistants’ service dogs assist children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs in a variety of ways. Some of the tasks our dogs perform include turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, pulling wheelchairs, retrieving dropped objects, summoning help, and providing secure companionship. While all of these functions are vitally important in helping a person obtain greater freedom, perhaps the most impressive gift their dogs provide is social, rather than physical, in nature. The dogs eliminate feelings of fear, isolation, and loneliness felt by their companions. One Canine Assistants recipient made the value of this gift quite clear when asked by a reporter what she liked most about her service dog. Immediately, she responded, ‘My dog makes my wheelchair disappear.’ They also place Facility Dogs who provide therapy and intervention services to children and adults. They provide a Disabilities Awareness Education Program and K-9 Kids Reading Program for school-age children as well as Animal Assisted Therapy and Interventions.

Most Canine Assistants service dogs are born, raised, and educated at their facility in Milton, Georgia, while some are occasionally adopted from local organizations or breeders. The majority of their service dogs are Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Golden Doodles. At Canine Assistants, they do not charge for their services. Rather, they rely on those who recognize that generosity toward one benefits us all.”

When we give to Canine Assistants we are providing funding for both the care and teaching of the dogs, as well as providing the recipients with an invaluable new furry family member that will provide life changing support.