Service Dogs: The Leaders of the Pack

Monday, January 29 marked the 89th anniversary of the The Seeing Eye (an original guide dog organization). While this service has been around for many decades, there are many newer, but just as vital, types of service dogs available. This blog will highlight two of the many organizations that help train service dogs to provide services for people in need: Canine Companions for Independence and Caregiver Canines. (If you want to read more about these organizations and/or the rules about service animals for Americans with Disabilities, please see the links at the end of this post.)

Canine Companions For Independence

High Bridge School District (K-8) in Hunterdon County works cooperatively with Canine Companions for Independence. Dogs trained through this organization could be raised for four possible purposes:

Service dogs assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks.

Imagine having a dog that could turn on lights, pick up dropped keys and open a door. Canine Companions for Independence service dogs are partnered with adults with physical disabilities to assist with daily tasks and increase independence by reducing reliance on other people. A service dog can pull their partner in a manual wheelchair, push buttons for elevators or automatic doors, and even assist with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.”

Hearing dogs alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds.

“Canine Companions for Independence hearing dogs are specially bred Labrador and Golden Retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging the leg or arm. Among the many sounds hearing dogs are trained to recognize and respond to are the sound of a doorbell, alarm clock, someone calling a name or a smoke alarm.”

Skilled companions enhance independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities.

“Our skilled companions are trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator. A facilitator is typically a parent, spouse or caregiver who handles and cares for the assistance dog, encourages a strong bond between the recipient and the skilled companion dog, and is responsible for the customized training needs of the dog.”

Facility dogswork with a professional in a visitation, education or healthcare setting.

“Facility dogs are expertly trained dogs that are partnered with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting. Canine Companions facility dogs are trustworthy in professional environments and can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire clients with special needs. Facilitators are working professionals responsible for handling and caring for the facility dog. Additionally, facilitators are committed to long-term employment where they directly serve clients with special needs a minimum of twenty hours per week. One of the most valued qualities of the facility dog is the unconditional love and attention it gives to the clients and patients with whom it interacts.”

Students in High Bridge Elementary School read aloud to the pup-in-training. Two students at a time read to the pup in the elementary school’s main office. This way students can practice fluency and maintaining attention spans while the pup practices his or her manners by listening politely. It is clearly a win-win situation. Throughout the day, the pup visits the halls and cafeteria, assemblies, etc. With Mrs. Christi Roling as his or her trainer, the pup learns and thrives. When the pup has learned enough to “graduate,” the school has a ceremony for the pup and a new puppy begins training. We often tell students to do good and to make the world better. This district SHOWS students how to make a positive difference.

Caregiver Canines

This is a group that is under Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey. They cater to homebound seniors. The canine part is a visiting therapy dog program. They go to the people’s homes who can no longer have pets, but still would love to have one visit. Their mission: make people smile. This wonderful program matches pups and their people with care receivers through their super canine coordinator (Danielle). She visits the people’s homes once they request a dog, checks to see if it will be safe for everyone and then makes a match. There are about forty dogs currently in the program.

The program has expanded from Ocean county, now in parts of Monmouth, Burlington, and north. Plus, they are active in other states. In order to become a team, dog and handler have to be certified through a therapy program. The training consists of basic obedience and working around equipment and other people. Plus, they also need to train the dog not to eat whatever is laying on the ground. It takes about six weeks to go through the training. Then there is a test for an examiner. Once that is through, the pup and his person are registered with the group, they certify the pup and person, and-  voila- a team is formed!

As far as the Caregiver Canine program itself, after a care provider signs up, they will run a background check. There are a few hours of orientation and then the care provider team is ready to bring smiles for miles. My cousin, Frank Pirozzi, is a member of this organization. His wife, Paula, is a hospice nurse. She recommended that Frank get involved with this program. He thanks her every day for this rewarding opportunity.

To learn more about these leaders of the pack or the law about ADA, go to:

Canine Companions for Independence –

Caregiver Canines –

What the Law Says About Service Animals (ADA Act Requirements) –


Posted in Education & Information and tagged , , .

Gwen Kusznier is mom to a 12-year old competitive gymnast, a 10-year old AAA hockey player, an adorable 8-year old furball with an adorable underbite (rescued through S&L and fostered by Dee and Paul), and a baby parakeet. She is also the wife to a beer league hockey player. She loves them all fiercely.

Gwen teaches eighth grade English- Language Arts at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School. She believes that everyone can make a difference and should pursue their passions to make the world a better place. Her students amaze her with their clever Humanity Service Learning Projects in which they educate others about and volunteer for charities such as HarnessLife.

Gwen has been involved in numerous book clubs and writing groups. As she begins her volunteering with HL, Gwen is excited to harness her creativity energies with this new chapter in her life.

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