Since bringing her home as a puppy, Cory Coons is seldom away from his yellow lab Jubilee. He takes her to work, they play fetch, and he has used the time to teach her nearly 30 commands.
Yet he knows he will have to give her up soon.
“It is extremely hard to do something like that because they become a part of your family,” said Coons. “But we are doing something that is going to help someone in their daily lives for a long time.”
Jubilee is being prepared in a foster home for Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit organization that trains dogs to help do the day-to-day tasks some humans are not able to do some themselves. Canine Companions has placed nearly 6,000 dogs, Labradors and retrievers bred by the organization with owners who have disabilities and other needs including many veterans.
“They can do laundry, they can tug the sheets off the bed. They are really willing to please,” said Maria Bruno, a trainer at the Irving campus.
While Coons and other fosters help the dogs learn the basics such as interacting with others and walking alongside their owner, the advanced training begins when they are 18-months-old. During that training, the dogs learn to pick up items, turn lights off and on, and get things out of the refrigerator among several other household tasks.
Canine Companions places the dogs with owners free of charge but the application process is extensive to make sure the temperament and abilities of the dog match the needs of the of the owner.
Assistance dogs for the state of Texas are all trained at the campus in Irving which opened in 2015 as a partnership between Canine Companions for Independence and Baylor Scott & White Health.