Gala supports assistance dogs to those in need |

Gala supports assistance dogs to those in need

Betty Ann Woodland
Special to the Daily
Brooke Exley and Diamond and Matt Barker with Cowboy volunteer with Canine Companions for Independence. Exley has been a puppy raiser since 2005 as a senior in high school later taking her dogs to her college classes.
Betty Ann Woodland | Special to the Daily

On Aug. 4, at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Canine Companions for Independence held its annual fundraising gala. The “Sit. Stay. Sparkle.” theme was fitting for the Vail chapter of the national organization that helps people with disabilities by providing highly-trained assistance dogs and ongoing support. The group provides exceptional dogs for exceptional people and trains four types of dogs: service dogs, hearing dogs, facility dogs and skilled companions.

Event chairs and chapter presidents Kay Michelsen and Mary Ellen Anderson welcomed guests and thanked the generous sponsors, hardworking volunteers and supporters. Special guest Sawyer, with his dog Biddy, spoke at the event. Sawyer has cerebral palsy, and his skilled canine helps him retrieve things, open doors and take the focus off his wheelchair. Biddy also helps Sawyer increase social interaction as people meet his awesome dog.

“Biddy has changed my life, my dad’s life and my whole family’s life,” Sawyer said. “I don’t think we could live as good a life without her.”

Highlights Aplenty

Auction items were plentiful and outrageous, including a one-week stay in Tuscany, an African safari, a five-day stay on a fishing yacht out of Fisher Island Club, Florida, dog beds, wine collections and more. A highlight was meeting many of the Canine Companion graduate dogs, puppies and their puppy raisers that were in attendance.

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Vail Valley junior chapter members also volunteered. Some of them attend Vail Mountain School, where, with the help of staff psychologist Kate Drescher, and the delight of the local chapter, they will receive a Canine Companions facility dog to assist students and staff in the school environment.

The local chapter would like readers to know that if they are looking for engagement as a Canine Companions volunteer, they encourage them to get involved with Vail Valley chapter, which is an extension of the Southwest Regional Training Center. They work to raise awareness, recruit new puppy raisers and volunteers and support one another’s work on behalf of Canine Companions’ mission. If you are interested in working with their chapter or donating, please contact them at

Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime local that covers social events including fundraisers for nonprofits, local happenings and soirees of all kinds. She can be reached at

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