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Clever assistance canines graduate

OCEANSIDE — The May graduating class of Canine Companions for Independence will hold a graduation ceremony at noon May 14 at the Mission San Luis Rey Parish’s Serra Center, 4070 Mission Ave.
The gathering of trained assistance dogs and their new owners, is open to the public with free admission. The ceremony will honor the newest recipients of Canine Companions’ highly-trained assistance dogs. Canine Companions for Independence Chief Executive Officer Corey Hudson, who also serves as President of Assistance Dogs International in North America, is the guest speaker.
The diverse clientele, both adults and children with a wide range of physical and developmental disabilities, will be matched with graduating assistance dogs, in training for two years. They assist with practical tasks like opening doors, activating light switches, retrieving dropped objects and pulling manual wheelchairs. The graduation ceremony is the culmination of an intensive, two-week, residential Team Training course completed by these new human-canine teams at Canine Companions’ Southwest Regional Training Center in Oceanside. Canine Companions’ clients receive their dogs, training and ongoing follow-up services free of charge.
The graduation ceremony will also feature volunteer puppy raisers turning in the puppies they have been fostering for Canine Companions for the past 14 to 16 months. Next, the puppies will embark on six to nine months of Professional Training with staff instructors in the hopes that they will one day become assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
Canine Companions’ Wounded Veterans Initiative will be highlighted at the event, as well. The Wounded Veterans Initiative was established in 2007 to increase placements of assistance dogs with military veterans with physical disabilities. Major funders of the program will be recognized at the graduation, as well as veterans who have benefited from the initiative.