Some of you might remember the Canine Companions for Independence puppy that we sponsored and was raised by our director of Dog Training, Leslie Zelamsky. It has been three months since Bryn entered Advanced Training at the Northeast Regional Training Center for Canine Companions for Independence in Medford, NY. At the end of every month, the puppy raisers get a report on how well their puppy is doing and what they are learning. I am pleased to write that Bryn's reports have been quite good. She has adjusted to her daily training routine, plays beautifully with the other dogs and is learning her commands very well.
If all goes well, Bryn will enter a “Team Training” class in November. When a dog enters Team Training, he gathers with a group of people who have been selected to recieve a Service Dog. Team Training lasts for two weeks. The first phase is when the group of selected dogs meet the selected group of recipients. As each day passes, the professional trainers observe the dogs and potential recipients to determine the best possible match. During the first week, there is a “pre-match” phase where there is a tentative coupling of dog and recipient. The two work towards becoming a “team.” Team training is a very intense process for everyone involved. Recipients are taught every aspect of handling and caring for their dog. As each day passes, the pre-match is assessed for a permanent placement.
In this photo, Bryn is learning to retrieve an object to the hand of her handler. She has to be very precise and stretch into Amanda's lap so that Amanda does not have to reach too far for it. CCI dogs are trained to make sure that there is an easy transfer of the item to the place where the handler can reach it. Bryn will eventually learn to do the same thing with anything her handler drops on the floor; a phone, a coin, credit card, crutch. Virtually anything!
As week two begins, the teams are soldified and everyone prepares for certification and graduation. If all goes well, I will drive down to the Medford, NY campus to see Bryn once again, meet her recipient and walk Bryn across the stage at graduation where I hand over her leash to her new person. Graduation is an incredible experience. Tears of joy are shed everywhere. Puppy Raisers glow with pride. The professional CCI trainers celebrate a job well done and the graduates, some of whom have waited close to two years, can look forward to a huge improvement in their quality of life with more independence and confidence.