click here to print or email

A Woman's Best Friend

Marianne McKiernan is a busy 7News reporter whose job is dedicated to helping people, but she doesn’t go to work alone- she goes with her dog, Jeb! She doesn’t just take Jeb to work, though. The labrador retriever tags along wherever his master goes! Sounds great, but why is he allowed to go everywhere? Jeb is a service dog in training,so he is allowed to go to special “human places.” Canine Companions for Independence(CCI) is a training center for service dogs in Santa Rosa, California, and where Jeb was born. First, the puppies are bred and are taught simple commands from the breeder for eight weeks. Then, the pooches are sent to a puppy trainer, like Marianne. For about eighteen months the trainers teach the dogs the required tricks to become successful service animals. Finally, the dogs return to CCI to go to canine college,and  are matched with a graduate, the disabled person, and “graduate” their new best friend. There are four different job options for the dogs, Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Skilled Companions, and Facility Dogs, but only 35% of the pups make it to graduation.  After all, the dogs are the ones who get to decide whether they want to be a service dog or not. Some careers don’t work out, like Striker’s. Striker was too smart to be a service dog- he knew too much! For example, Striker would sit in chairs, open doors, etc. He was too stubborn for a career of quiet, rule following behavior, so instead he got a wonderful home with kids, which he loved. The greatest part of the CCI program is that all the pooches get homes, even if they decide not to be service dogs.
If you are interested in learning more about service dogs and what they do you can visit Jeb’s dog blog at http://www.thedenverchannel.com/lifestyle/pets/jebs-dogblog-all-chapters or you can read Marianne’s book Let the Dogs Speak. Her book is about the life of service dogs, and is mostly from the point of view from her past pets! It’s a great story, and would be  an entertaining read for just about anybody who can read a chapter book.