Canine Companions for Independence® provides assistance dogs free of charge to recipients
Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence® is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.
The assistance dogs they breed, raise and train aren’t just the ears, hands and legs of their human partners. They’re also goodwill ambassadors and often, their best friends. They open up new opportunities and new possibilities, and spread incredible joy. Canine Companions unite people with dogs in a powerful program that leads to greater independence and confidence. Learn more about Canine Companions
Learn about Charlie and Devon
It takes a distinct form of courage to take on a job called “explosive ordnance disposal technician,” especially while serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Charlie is that kind of brave.
Even while recounting how he was injured, Charlie is matter-of-fact. “I stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device). When I came to and figured out what happened, my leg and hand were severely damaged and I had some brain injuries," says Charlie. “When I was injured, I had been in the best shape of my life. Then I ended up in a hospital bed for over a year. My wife had to do everything for me. I was depressed and in a bad place. For 18 months after my injury I had my right leg. I had several surgeries to try to save it, but I was in so much pain I decided to have it amputated and live a happy life.”
Although Charlie had every reason to feel sorry for himself, he’s moving on. “You take the word impossible. Break it into two: I’m possible,” Charlie points out. “I asked myself, ‘How hard am I going to work?’” He not only got back in shape, but he became the first combat-wounded veteran to reach the top of Mt. Everest.
Still, Charlie needs help with everyday tasks. That’s where Service Dog Devon III comes in. Charlie received Devon free of charge from Canine Companions for Independence.
“I have a lower spine injury that makes my left leg go numb so my balance isn’t always what it needs to be,” Charlie explains. “When I’m using my cane and carrying something, having Devon with me to pick up something that I’ve dropped, open a door or hit a light switch is a big day-to-day thing for me when I’m out in public. He makes everything I do in my life so much better.”
At home, Charlie does not always use his prosthetic leg. “Devon has learned to bring me my prosthesis when I’m sitting on the couch or lying in bed. He also takes care of the simple task of bending over to get something when I’m in a lot of pain,” explains Charlie. “Some days I would have chosen not to participate in life and just stay in the house. But Devon is there to put his head in my lap as if to say, ‘Let’s go.’”
Charlie is one of over 260 military veterans who have received assistance dogs from Canine Companions. “Canine Companions assistance dogs are amazing gifts,” says Charlie. “They change people’s lives.”