MEDFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A non-profit organization on Long Island is enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by providing them with skilled and loving canine partners.
On Friday, new teams of four-legged friends graduated after a rigorous training program.
It was a unique “winter graduation” between the dogs and their human partners, after two full weeks together. There was barely a dry eye in the house as the special pairings were made.
Over 20 service dogs said hello to their new matches and goodbye to the volunteers who raised them.
“Those volunteers took the dogs when they were eight weeks of age and kept them for 18 months and trained them,” Debra Dougherty from Canine Companions for Independence said.
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Kailey Worthington trained Cadillac before handing the leash to Brooklyn pharmacist Zizu Wahdan – who is living with a degenerative disease.
“100 percent it will be life changing,” Wahdan said.
“He’s here to help Zizu with different things such as picking things off the ground, opening doors,” Worthington told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The dogs can respond to as many as sixty commands. Ella Rogers of Garden City was born with disabilities and is eager for her siblings to meet her new companion, Hyde.
“Helps her with anxiety and with her socialization,” Ella’s mother Maggie Rogers said.
It’s estimated to cost up to $50,000 to raise and train a canine companion – who are given to families for free – thanks to the generosity of donors.
Ten-year-old Greta Baier of Manhattan tells CBS2 she is already in love with Midas.
“He can help me open doors, refrigerator, closets, that is truly helpful because I have a hard time using my arm,” Baier said.
Exceptional dogs for exceptional people.
Canine Companions for Independence urges people who may know someone who might need the emotional or physical support of a service dog to contact them.