I spent the last 2 weeks in a dorm with strangers to train with Peyton and his new canine companion. The families were all awesome and I am glad our paths crossed. They elected me class speaker. These were my words.
My name is Bonnie Marquez and I am representing the graduating class of February 2016. We came together 2 weeks ago with our own preconceived ideas of what we needed or wanted but we all had a similar goal-to find the perfect companion for our self, our child or our workplace. I can honestly say … mission completed. Team training has been an amazing time of bonding with new friends, trainers and our dogs. After a couple of days of meeting and working with several potential dogs, pre-match day came. It was a thrill to watch each and every team find their FUREVER companion. Each one couldn’t have been more perfectly matched.
Chance will be the most popular kid in town with Neelia! She gives him confidence and a purpose that will carry over into other areas like school, therapies and daily life. Chance and his family are so appreciative to have Neelia in their life and can’t wait to get to know her better.
Mitchell’s mother was delighted when he actually reached his hand out for Rockford. Rockford provides Mitchell with improved self-confidence; as it changes how others view him and how he views himself. Rockford provides emotional support at medical appointments and pride that comes from the responsibility of caring for him. Rockford helps encourage Mitchell’s speech by voicing commands and providing a bridge for conversation in social situations. Not to mention how helpful Rockford will be in retrieving frequently dropped items. Mitchell’s disability isolates him, so for Rockford to offer mutual unconditional love and companionship means the world to his family.
Barbara fell in love instantly with Poehler! His sweet, playful personality engages Barb and his tender side fulfills her need for companionship. On pre-match day he greeted Barbara by plucking her bow off her head and sitting on her lap… he chose his girl! He marches proudly alongside Barb’s wheelchair, snuggles up to her with all of her equipment on and is retrieving his toys and dropping them in her lap. He is hard-working, brilliant, silly and sweet. He will be Barbara’s companion, friend, arms and legs and her pride and joy! Poehler is our dream come true!
Sabine’s companion Balter not only provides companionship but helps her with everyday tasks.
Adam’s family feels very fortunate to have Blade come in to their life. He is such a loveable and responsive dog. He is always there for Adam. Often Blade sits next to Adam and rests his paw on him. This is very helpful especially when Adam has to do his oral exercises, which are not his favorite. Adam loves to talk to Blade every night before going to sleep and share with him his day. Blade has been such an added blessing to their family.
Kingston is Devin’s 2nd Canine Companion. Ellie was going to be hard to replace but Kingston and Devin made a connection the very first meeting. Kingston was the only dog to get right on Devin, look him in the eye and not care about anyone or anything going on around him. Devin knew instantly this was his dog to the extent his parents were worried if he didn’t get him how devastated he would be. Kingston is Devin’s Best friend. He’s also his chick magnet. Devin and Kingston are just 2 guys hanging out watching the Broncos, Dodgers and living it up in Vegas!!!!! Kingston is gentle giant with two gears: loving and sensitive and full-fledged fetch player. We all chuckled when Michelle asked if these dogs were fully grown and Patrick said-Thank God!!!!
Barb (the dog-not the child) will begin her new life beside Susan and Fawn working within the Courthouse. When Barb is working she is very serious and stoic. Susan and Fawn were so pleased one morning when they greeted her at her kennel and she was so excited to see them her whole crate was shaking. It really showed them both sides of her personality and has convinced them that she will be perfectly placed in the courthouse facility. She can be serious in court and still have fun with the kids and make them enjoy the process of meetings and court.
Hani will take her place beside Beth in the classroom. She will help students with disabilities by providing them the opportunity to care for and be responsible for something other than themselves. Hani’s social personality makes her perfect for this environment.
My son, Peyton, was matched with Beatrice. “Princess Bea” as I call her. The first time I walked with her I told her “let’s go” she looked me in the eye, turned and pranced beside me and I knew this was our girl. There was an instant connection. Peyton has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is an aggressive muscle wasting disease. He spends a minimum of 1 day per week in the hospital at UCLA, sometimes more. That can be lonely and isolating as he misses a lot of school and social activities. Bea is a game changer for our family. She provides motivation for him to move around while playing fetch. She provides and ice breaker when people are unsure of his disability. Most of all, she provides a constant, unconditional loving and accepting BFF for Peyton. Watching her snuggle on the bed with him each night melts my heart.
We couldn’t be more grateful for Canine Companions for the gift they have given all of us.
The last 2 weeks have been challenging, intense and most of all, rewarding. All of us put our lives on hold, leaving spouses, children and jobs to live in a dorm with strangers. Turns out, this group couldn’t have been better. Everyone has been incredibly helpful, supportive and encouraging. I am going to miss the morning and evening camaraderie between all the families.
So thank you to everyone who had a hand in guiding our fur babies to this point…the puppy breeders and the puppy raisers whose devotion to these dogs and program is commendable. To Simi and everyone at Canine Companions who make this program successful. You have made us feel incredibly welcome.
I cannot end without thanking Kyle and Grace for being wonderful trainers and teachers. Their love of these dogs and their craft is apparent. The look of love Bea has when she sees Grace and Poehler has for Kyle is a testament to their commitment. They have been patient, helpful, stern when necessary, reassuring and the reason we have been successful.
Today marks the first day in a lifetime of love and companionship between our dogs and their companions. We thank you all for sharing in our day. Let’s celebrate!