Jeff and Waylon

person with five Canine Companions puppies

It started off just like any other day–Jeff LoParo sat down to breakfast and opened the paper, but Jeff didn’t realize that reading the paper that morning in 2013 was going to change his life. “I think I’m one of the only people that still reads a printed paper!” laughs Jeff. “That is how I first heard about Canine Companions for Independence; I read a story in the paper about puppy raising.”

Jeff had been around dogs all of his life. His family raised show dogs and his dad was an American Kennel Club judge. “I love training dogs in obedience and I liked the idea of having a buddy for my black lab, but didn’t want a 14-year commitment,” Jeff says. Raising a puppy for a year and a half appealed to him, so he applied online. Three months later he received Gordo.

Gordo was the first puppy that Jeff raised for Canine Companions. Now in professional training, Gordo will be meeting several people with disabilities this spring to hopefully find his match and change their life forever.

Jeff, a former marine fighter pilot and self-described big guy, says “Even thinking about Gordo graduating makes me want to cry, because I’m so happy for him and what he’ll go on to do.” While raising Gordo, Jeff attended a few graduation ceremonies. “At the first graduation I went to, a mother with a son with autism was receiving a Canine Companions assistance dog. The mother explained to the audience that her son’s autism was very severe. Doctors had told her that if they couldn’t get her son to come out of his shell and connect, his behavior would likely worsen as he got older and he’d be in danger of self-injurious behavior. Now the boy has made a connection with his assistance dog. He has a buddy now. That dog potentially saved this kid’s life. And as a puppy raiser we have the ability to make this possible.”

Now Jeff is raising his second puppy, Waylon. “The time I spend with the dogs and the other puppy raisers…this process and these connections I have with these dogs is life-changing–the dogs do so much more for us than we do for the dogs,” says Jeff. “And the impact is so far reaching. Not just one life, but many lives. It just makes you feel so good about what you are doing.”