So Much More Than A Dog

Service dog FloBy Kit Boyer, Vice President, Advertising Solutions & New Business Development, ViacomCBS

About six years ago, my oldest daughter couldn’t leave the house. An avid reader, an animal lover, and a budding author who has already written a 500-page novel––she also has autism. This vibrant, creative little girl had reached a point where being in public places wasn’t a possibility. Something as simple as going to the grocery store, or something as spectacular as attending Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, was completely out of question.

Fortunately, after years of exhaustive research, my wife and I discovered Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions provides the world’s most highly-trained service dogs for people with a range of disabilities––completely free of charge. We applied, and two years later, Florian––”Flo” for short––joined our family. Because of Flo, who knows more than 45 commands, leaving the house and other social interaction challenges are now a thing of the past. Flo is so much more than a dog for my family––she restored our independence.

Shortly after Flo joined us, we shared Canine Companions with Pam Kaufman and the Nickelodeon Social Impact Team, given the natural link with Paw Patrol. The team instantly embraced a pro social partnership, and over the last few years we’ve created something lasting and meaningful. Thank you to Irene Mui and Bianca Carrasquillo for continuing this.

I’m excited to share the latest news: There’s a new dog in the Nickelodeon Paw Patrol pack: Rex. Rex has a disability and uses a wheelchair for mobility.

Today, July 29th, our pro social partnership with Rex and Canine Companions becomes public, via Nick Jr Instagram along with Canine Companions’ social handles. We throw to canine.org/pawpatrol, where kids and adults can learn all about disabilities and assistance dogs.

Unfortunately, many kids with disabilities are victims of a latent but damaging form of discrimination:
they are left out, ignored, and rendered invisible in the media they consume.

When kids don’t see positive images of themselves in the shows they watch, they get a very clear message about their value and their place in the world. This also sends the same message to able-bodied kids about their differently-abled peers. It’s a harmful reality with tangible consequences, and not something any of us should let continue. We’re absolutely thrilled to add Rex to the team. He demonstrates ViacomCBS’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, and, most importantly, he shows kids that they matter.

Please share Rex with all the kids in your life, regardless of their range of ability. At their best, media gives us a window into different life experiences, and a mirror to reflect and validate our own life experiences. Both contribute to creating a more empathetic, inclusive world.

And if you know an adult or child with a disability, please consider referring them to Canine Companions. If you look through the window into my family’s life, you’ll see that Canine Companions truly changes lives.

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Flo at work. You’ll notice that she always has her eye on my daughter.

Service dog Flo with little girl and mom in the street

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