The Copp family, featured on HGTV’s Fixer Upper and founders of the Raising Wheels Foundation, has a new furry addition to the family, and she comes with a special purpose.
Ten-year-old Calan was matched with Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog Jaia, completely free of charge. A two-year-old yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, Jaia is trained in over 40 commands to help Calan be more independent. Calan utilizes a wheelchair or walker for mobility, so having an assistance dog by his side to help with daily tasks is life changing.
Calan and his brother Lawson both have a rare genetic disorder that took years to diagnose, as there are only 12 known cases in the world. The mutation of the PNPT1 gene affects both their mobility and cognitive development. Calan and Lawson had difficulty just getting around their house, until Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Foundation partnered with sports figure Tim Tebow to build them a fully-accessible home.
Now, Calan’s independence has been enhanced even more with the addition of assistance dog Jaia.
With Jaia’s extensive training, she helps Calan navigate the new home and is also integrated into Calan’s physical therapy, making exercises more fun and providing motivation.
At home, Jaia uses the ‘tug’ command to open the back door, allowing Calan to go outside and play. She loves to play tug of war with Calan, giving her play and exercise while building muscles and endurance for Calan. Jaia also retrieves dropped items so Calan can stay safely in his chair while doing homework at his desk and helps him clean his room by picking up items for him.
“The possibilities are really endless,” said Jody, Calan’s father. “Jaia is able to help Calan with so many things to give him more confidence and independence.”
Out of the home, assistance dog Jaia has accompanied Calan to the Texas State Capitol twice, attended his first Special Olympics track meet, and joins Calan from his vehicle to school every day.
Trained in Irving, Texas at the Canine Companions® state of the art training center, children, adults and veterans with disabilities throughout Texas can apply for an assistance dog. There are also volunteer opportunities to help the nonprofit. Learn more at canine.org
About Canine Companions for Independence:
Canine Companions for Independence is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that provides expertly trained assistance dogs to children, adults and veterans with disabilities at no charge. Established in 1975, Canine Companions has six regional training centers across the country and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. For more information, visit canine.org or call 1-800-572-BARK.
Courtney Craig, 214-259-4658