CCI is Canine Companions for Independence and Team Training is where the team (recipient and handler) are trained to work with a service dog. The dogs are already trained, so we will spend two weeks learning.
We will be training for a Skilled Companion Dog for our older son. CCI calls this a Skilled Companion Team:
A three-part team including a child or adult with physical, developmental or emotional disabilities, a primary caretaker, and a Canine Companion who helps with physical tasks and creates a bond of companionship, affection and love.
My wife, my older son, and I will be in training for the next two weeks. We will live on campus in Santa Rosa, and our younger son will stay home, go to school, and live with friends for one week and have his grandparents as companions for the second week. He’s being great about this. We are going to have a wonderful new dog, and he knows that he has to make room for his brother to be the best friend. How amazing is that?
The dogs really are wonderful. Here is a photo from our interview. The trainer is in the wheelchair and the dog is quiet and attentive, waiting for the next command. My audition was with this dog, and he was a joy. I told him “let’s go” and he walked with me, keeping light contact with my leg to stay close.
Our son is developmentally delayed but doesn’t have major physical handicaps, so some friends have (reasonably) asked what a service dog can do for him. I think that is best answered by this video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia. Watch how Ilia puts her head on him (the “visit” command), how he holds the leash for security in physical therapy, and how Ilia is so careful to be close but not in the way in the solo dog walk. Warning: have a hankie ready.
Video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia (YouTube, 3:24)
If you are curious how a Service Dog can help, as opposed to a Skilled Companion Dog, read about Thida Cornes and her magical dog Hermione.
For a taste of Team Training, read Thida’s My Hermione matching story. I expect I’ll be a bit busy to liveblog our training.
This is a big commitment. We will be helping our son bond with the dog (we are not the dog’s best friend, he is). We’ll have a big friendly dog in our family for years. We will have epic levels of dog hair (one friend estimates that 60-80% of their food intake goes directly to hair production). We will be maintaining the training and teaching new commands. We will be re-tested yearly to retain our ADI certification. The dog will go to work with one of us every day — CCI rules don’t allow the dog to be alone for more than four hours. It should also be loads of fun. I’m already checking out dog-friendly trails in the area.