It’s the Great Pumpkin Parade, Charlie Brown! Canine Companions for Independence is celebrating it’s 14th Annual Dogfest on Oct. 9th, where Man’s best friend takes center stage with a walk-a-thon and canine festival to benefit CCI. With one of five regional training centers based in Medford, Long Island, Canine Companions has been transforming the lives of handicapped individuals for over 20 years. At the Miller Family Campus their new state-of-the art training facility boasts a 39-thousand square foot entirely handicapped accessible building complete with 11 dormitories where clients and their families can stay free of charge during two weeks of intensive training. For Mark Cummins, who was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, his assistance dog Misha, has changed his life immeasurably. “Before Misha, people used to look at me weird… and now they look at me and smile! They come up to me and they ask about the dog and what she does. She basically goes everywhere I go.”
Where do the dogs come from?
CCI has its own dog breeding program, and after years of research has settled on a cross of Labrador and Golden Retrievers which have just the right personalities and temperament for a life of service. One of the backbones of the organization is a network of puppy raisers throughout the Northeast (including Westchester and Fairfield), who take the dogs for the first year and a half of their lives, care for them, teach them basic commands, and when they are ready, they are turned back into the Miller Family Campus to begin 6 months of intensive training. There is a nearly two year waiting list, and last year, CCI matched over 40 recipients and their companions. The dogs and their new families receive follow up assistance for life. This is all done free of charge with no cost to recipients or their families. It costs about forty thousand dollars to train and match each Canine Companion.
This year’s Dogfest, held on the Farmingdale State College campus in Farmingdale, will include fun activities for the whole family and their pets. The events start at 11a.m. Rain or Shine! The Walk-a-Thon begins at 2p.m., and pledges for the walk will be collected afterwards. Participants raising $75 will receive a FREE Canine Companions Dogfest T-Shirt, and Doggie Bandana. Raise $250 dollars and receive a CCI sweatshirt. Other activities include a costume contest, raffles, games, a canine agility course, working dog demonstrations, and goodies for both humans and pooches from local vendors. The highlight of the day will be Snoopy’s Canine Costume Parade, featuring Snoopy himself. (Jean Schulz, widow of Snoopy creator Charles Schulz has been a long-time national board member and supporter of CCI, and has generously donated use of the Peanuts characters and logo’s). For more visit cci.org/dogfest2011.