Vail Valley Scenery column: Canine Companions for Independence hosts ‘DogFest’ |

Vail Valley Scenery column: Canine Companions for Independence hosts ‘DogFest’

Carolyn Pope
Vail Valley Scenery
Kathleen and Lillian Ellmore with CCI dog Frontier.
Carolyn Pope | Special to the Daily |

For most of us, our hearts melt when we look in those big brown eyes when they come bounding up to us, tails wagging and we know they love us unconditionally.

People who live with a Canine Companions for Independence dog also find that true. But for those with a physical challenge, these animals are so much more than just pets; they are a lifeline.

Saturday the local chapter of CCI held their first DogFest Walk ‘n Roll at Freedom Park in Edwards.

Lillian Ellmore has had her dog, Frontier, for four years.

“Frontier picks up stuff I drop and acts as a brace when I fall. He also tugs my socks off,” she explained.

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Just as importantly, she added, “He’s my best friend; he doesn’t care that I’m in a wheelchair.”

Paul O’Brien, the Colorado director, said that in Colorado, there are 51 dog graduates from the program, and 62 puppy raisers. Not all dogs that are trained make it to the front line as official CCI dogs. They are known as CCI release dogs.

“CCI is the oldest and largest program that provides dogs for people with physical difficulties,” he said. “Vail is a philanthropic community, and we’re so happy that they have embraced our organization.”

Lainie Kaye is a volunteer for CCI and adopted a release dog, Summer.

“There’s nothing like CCI in the valley,” Kaye claimed. “Summer was raised in a prison in Burlington by two prisoners. She learned 30 commands, but when she was coming into the program she became fearful in crowds, so she was released.”

She added. “The program is very therapeutic for prisoners. It’s life changing and gives them a purpose.”

The DogFest hosted around 250 people (and their four-legged friends). The event kicked off with a party at the home of Mary and David Davies, where local designers created dog beds that were auctioned off, along with other exclusive one-of-a-kind items. The event was spearheaded by Carol Moore-Mink, and raised $50,000.

CCI’s major need right now, other than financial donations, is to find generous, dog loving people to give puppies a loving home before they are sent to one of the five training centers around the country. Puppy raisers keep the dogs for about 18 months. Also, if you are in need or know someone in need of a highly-trained service dog, then please visit for more information or send an email to

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