Love is a four-legged word | VailDaily.com

Love is a four-legged word

Dogs break down social barriers for children in wheelchairs, making them feel more confident and finding new friends. Canine Companions for Independence's Vail Valley chaper is hosting a fundraiser Aug. 19.
Chris Kittredge, Canine Companions for Independence | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Puttin’ on the Ritz, a fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence.

Where: The Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek.

When: 6 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19.

Cost: $175, sponsorship opportunities are also available.

More information: Visit www.CCI.org or call Anne Roberts, Vail Valley chapter president, at 970-445-0018.

BEAVER CREEK — Canine Companions for Independence are teaching dogs to do more than just roll over, and the nonprofit is training Golden Retrievers and Labs to help humans in need.

“They can be taught to do just about anything,” said Anne Roberts, president of the Vail Valley chapter of Canine Companions for Independence.

Their dogs are helping military veterans, autistic children and people who have lost control of their bodies, for whatever reason.

Canine Companions for Independence can get medicine out of the refrigerator; help do laundry and get their human dressed; pull wheelchairs; help disabled veterans in and out of cars; vacuum the house; pull blankets on or off; and, most importantly, they are giving people their freedom back.

“It’s the comfort of having this unconditional fuzzy thing right beside them,” Roberts said. “That’s why they are so helpful with veterans who have PTSD because they just have a way of calming them down.”

Canine Companions for Independence began in 1975 and has six regional centers across the country with a satellite office in Colorado Springs. On Friday, Aug. 19, Canine Companions for Independence will host Puttin’ on the Ritz at The Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch.

The fundraiser will help provide assistance dogs for children, adults and military veterans with disabilities, free of charge. It costs $50,000 to train a Canine Companion for Independence, and nearly 5,000 dogs have been matched with humans, free of charge, since its inception.

Jake, a German Shepard, and his family are matching up to $35,000 this year to help his other dog friends and families.

‘THERE’S A NEED’

Puttin’ on the Ritz will include dinner as well as a presentation by a military veteran with a CCI dog and another guest speaker. The only junior chapter in the nonprofit is here with the Vail Valley chapter, and the 12 kids represent four schools in the valley, ranging in age from 12 to 16. They will be honored at the fundraiser for creating a video that earned them becoming the beneficiary of the annual Evans Chaffee Kickball Classic.

For military veterans, CCI has trained dogs to circle their wheelchairs to make them feel safe, as well as attaching GoPros to the dogs so that the human can send the canine into a home and ensure the soldier that everything is safe.

For kids, it breaks down the barrier of how people portray them. For Braydon, an 11-year-old boy from Colorado Springs with mild physical and developmental disabilities, his CCI dog Eliza helps him in more ways than one.

“The dog makes him feel more independent,” said Braydon’s mom, Jamie, adding that her son has trouble with balance issues and completing everyday tasks. “Eliza walks beside Braydon with a wagging tail. She cuddles him every night in bed and accompanies him to his appointments. She gives him such comfort.“

Dogs also immediately break down the social barrier because, well, everyone loves dogs. So other kids will approach children with CCI dogs, making new friends.

Roberts had a favorite quote from an 8-year-old boy, who said, “My dog makes my wheelchair disappear.”

She also said some autistic children, who don’t speak, begin talking to their dogs, lifting up their ears and whispering in their ears, before becoming comfortable enough talking to other people.

Canine Companions for Independence are always looking for puppy raisers as well as people who might need a dog.

“We need these dogs in this valley,” Roberts said. “There’s a need, especially with all of the veterans coming back.”

Tickets to Puttin’ on the Ritz are $175, and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, visit http://www.cci.org or call Roberts at 970-445-0018.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.




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