Canine Companions -- $50,000 Team Training
Canine Companions pairs individuals who have physical and/or developmental disabilities, such as hearing loss, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy, with service dogs. These service dogs give the gift of independence and can improve the health and well-being of those living with disabilities, allowing them to become a more integral part of our communities.
Canine Companions requested $50,000 in funds to support five (5) North County youth to attend their Team Training program, where each child is paired with a service dog, free of charge to the family. Once invited to Team Training, the clients reside on campus and meet six days a week for 2 weeks to learn about canine behavior and care, dog handling skills, and the 40+ commands their future partners already know. Each class is led by Canine Companions professional instructors who match each student with the service dog that best meets their personality and needs. By the end, the clients will have experienced 100+ hours of classroom instruction, lectures, practice sessions, field trips and 1 1/2 days of final evaluations.
Canine Companions is currently working with three (3) youth clients in North County. During the application period five North County youths were on the waiting list to attend Team Training during the grant period. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the families moved out of the area just before their training session. Since the funds were specifically granted to support North County youth, Canine Companions reached out to RSFWF to request a partial extension of $10,000 on their grant. After discussing the situation with the Past Grant Chairs, this extension was granted until May 2024. During the initial grant period, they also placed four companions with other non-North County San Diego youth.
Finally, besides the individual placements, Canine Companions provided facility dogs to those working in educational, medical, and criminal justice settings. These dogs undergo the same rigorous process as our service dogs and play an essential role in engaging clients, helping them feel safe, and fostering a welcoming environment. They currently have seven dogs serving in this capacity, and one of them, Sushi, was placed with Bethany, a school counselor at Vista Innovation & Design Academy during the initial grant period.
In a recent survey conducted by Canine Companions, clients who obtained a service dog for their child, 95% reported improved emotional well-being, 91% saw an increase in personal interactions, 90% reported increased self-confidence, and 84% of families reported an improved family dynamic. These improvements create happier, healthier families that can participate more fully in their communities.