I was fortunate enough to spend some time with residents John and Mary Wolfe and their black lab puppy, Que to learn about Canine Companions for Independence and why John & Mary decided to help others by working with this organization. Canine Companions for Independence, founded in 1975 is a non- profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs with a lifetime of support to ensure quality partnerships. The dogs are labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, or mixes of the two breeds that are bred in California. Volunteer applicants are put through a grueling process, one that Mary compared to adopting a child. Once selected, the 8 week old puppies are flown to their pre-approved raisers. The volunteers train the puppy for a year and a half, provide socialization and training, pay for all food, classes, vet visits and submit a monthly report on how their puppy is progressing. When the dog is returned to the Canine Companion headquarters, they undergo nine additional months of strenuous advanced training. At this point, with all of Que's training he will be worth about $50,000 and given free of charge to the person he is matched with to become an assistance dog. Que will be matched with whomever requires the skillset for which he is best suited. He might pull a wheelchair, alert a deaf person about sounds, predict an insulin attack for an owner, keep a depressed person with PTSD alive with special companionship, reassure and guide an autistic child, perform search and rescue or even bomb sniffing.
Mary and John have raised and trained 7 rescues in their marriage sometimes 2-3 at a time and many of them were labra-mutts. When asked why they decided to volunteer in such a significant way, the Wolfes said, “We love dogs and think they are important to people. We are 78 years old and if we got a young dog of our own it might out-live us! This is a way we can help others.”
Thank you Mary and John for your wonderful contribution! We look forward to watching Que on his journey.