Journey to independence |

Journey to independence

Carolyn Pope
Carolyn Pope/Vail Daily Janette Lawler with Justin and Carolyn Griffin with Lena.

EAGLE COUNTY – Imagine not being able to reach a light switch, pick up your keys or even get undressed by yourself. Then imagine having a dog that can do all that… and more.

Canine Companions for Independence is a national nonprofit organization that provides trained service dogs to children and adults with disabilities.Anne Roberts, a member of the national board, along with Cordillera residents Bob and Joan Solon, held the first annual fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence in the Vail Valley. The event, a cocktail reception, took place at the Chef’s Corner in Cordillera. The owners, award-winning chef Rick Kangas and partner Stephan Poulin, provided food for the event. More than 240 people attended and almost $70,000 was raised.”When we first discussed the idea, we thought that a net of $10,000 to $15,000 would be a good take for our first event,” Joan Solon said. “The response from the community was overwhelming, and we are already planning for next year.”

John and Anne Rainey and Carole and Bob Zinn were presented with awards in appreciation of their roles in organizing the fundraiser. Among the guests were several “graduate teams” of the Canine Companions for Independence program. Guests were encouraged to meet the teams, and were able to observe the extraordinary companion animals in action. A hard-working committee helped enormously in putting the event together. Grace and Steve Gamble, Barbara and Jack Benson, Rosie and Bob Tutag, Mart and John Pieper, and Elise and Vic Micati helped out. The Raineys, Zinns and Kathy and David Ferguson sponsored the event.Medicine and doorbellsHeadquartered in Santa Rosa, Calif., with a satellite office in Colorado Springs, Canine Companions for Independence raises and trains service dogs, which are partnered with children and adults with disabilities.

Foster families adopt the puppies, and after about a year-and-a-half, the dogs are sent to Santa Rosa for advanced training. It takes approximately two years and costs from $25,000 to $50,000 to fully train one dog.The dogs are provided free of charge to their handicapped partners. All expenses for raising and training the dogs are covered by private donations. There are “puppy raisers” here in the Vail Valley as well as disabled people and their companion dogs. Other locals are on the waiting list for dogs. Canine Companions for Independence dogs help in a variety of ways in and out of a home, from shopping and dressing and doing laundry to turning lights on and off, fetching medicine from a refrigerator and alerting the hearing impaired to ringing phones or doorbells.Possibly the most important thing a Canine Companions for Independence dog can give their partner, however, is affection and loving companionship.For more information, call Canine Companions for Independence at (800)572-2275 or e-mail them at The group’s Web site is: http://www.caninecompanions.orgVail, Colorado

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