I’ve heard so many stories about service dogs and connected with many great people since starting this blog. This January, I wrote about going to the Canine Companions for Independence headquarters in Santa Rosa, Calif., and meeting a new “H” litter of puppies. One of those puppies was Hachi, and, after my posting, his puppy-raiser Kristin Buchheit and I connected on Facebook. Since then I’ve learned a bit about her incredible story raising service pups.
Kristin’s mom was a special education teacher who worked with kids with physical disabilities. On a vacation in the Allegheny Mountains, the family met a park ranger who had a service dog, and Kristin and her sister fell in love with the idea of raising their own puppy.
Her mom heard about Canine Companions at her school, and shortly afterward, the whole family started their journey. They raised six puppies as a family, and then Kristin and her sister Teresa raised three more together while in college. Hachi is now the sixth pup Kristin has raised on her own. That’s truly a lifetime of dedication!
This week, Kristin and Hachi traveled to New Albany, Ohio — not far from where she grew up — for a big ground-breaking ceremony for a state-of-the-art new facility for Canine Companions.
Canine Companions is organized into six separate regional training centers across the country. Most of these training centers have advanced facilities — in particular, ADA-accessible dorms where the recipients of the dogs stay during their intensive training with their new dogs.
The North Central region, which serves 14 states, has been limited with less-ideal facilities. Graduates stay in hotels (and pay out-of-pocket) versus on-campus dorms, making the training a little more challenging. And much of the dogs’ advanced training happens in other locations given limited space at the center.
Constantly loading the dogs up to move them around wastes a lot of time that could be focused on training.
This new center will replace the current location and be a significant upgrade for puppy-raisers and graduates. Specifically, it will include dorms where the graduates can stay while they learn how to work with their new service dogs. It's also on 16 acres of land, and will have 54,000 square feet of indoor space so all the training will happen on-site.
Canine Companions has grown tremendously over the past 40-plus years thanks to the support of so many that have donated time and money to their efforts. In its history, CCI has matched up 6,022 dogs, and made a significant impact on the day-to-day experiences of thousands of people. Canine Companions has done this by pairing these dogs — completely free of charge — with the people who need them most.
Tireless volunteers like Kristin and countless donors — like those who contributed financially to make this new facility a reality — are essential to Canine Companions’ ability to expand and help even more people.
The new facility should be complete by the end of 2020. Fingers crossed it will be ready by the time Hachi goes off to doggy college, and he gets to experience that new kennel smell.