Giving Tuesday: Sometimes Givers Need Help

I like the idea of taking a day the week after the craziest, greediest shopping day of the year and making it about giving instead of getting.

Today, Rebecca Vogel and her family could use some help.

Rebecca’s a vet student at Cornell University and a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. That means that while pursuing a pretty intense degree, she’s volunteering a good amount of her own time and money to raise puppies to be trained as service dogs for folks with disabilities.

Thanksgiving week, Rebecca and her puppy in training, Kip, were heading home to New Hampshire from school when they were involved in an auto wreck with a semi truck. Her injuries, a traumatic brain injury and crushed vertebrae, require surgery, at least one of which she’s already had. Sadly, Kip was lost in the crash.

When someone is injured, there are many expenses involved. Even with good insurance, there are things that aren’t covered. For example, Rebecca’s family is staying with her in Albany while she’s in the hospital, and it’s always expensive to stay out of town for an extended period of time, especially right around the holidays. There are also lost wages, which can be devastating this time of year.

On this Giving Tuesday, consider giving something to a young woman whose whole life is focused on giving. Honor Kip and show love to Rebecca by making sure that as Hanukkah winds down, the Vogels know that they’re cared for and that Rebecca’s commitment to making others’ lives better is appreciated.

All but $1,000 of everything donated will go directly to assisting the Vogels during this difficult time, including sending flowers to the hospital. In Kip’s memory, $1,000 will be donated to Canine Companions for Independence.

Click here to give.

This photo of Rebecca and puppy was taken from her fundraising site at

This photo of Rebecca and puppy was taken from her fundraising site at


You Knew Better, Right?

As Service Dog users, we’re quick to point the finger at the general public for making our lives difficult.

Here’s the thing: At least most of them can plead ignorance.

I have news for you if you have a Service Dog. You cannot plead ignorance to etiquette or laws. When you call your dog a Service Dog, you lose that privilege. If you’re not prepared to be held accountable for your dog’s behavior, don’t call him or her a Service Dog, and don’t take advantage of the laws that provide public access rights. Continue reading

There’s a Dog for That

Last week, I went through the legally recognized types of working dogs for people with disabilities in the article, What Constitutes a Service Animal? (Edit: Thank you, Sarah, for saving me from my poorly punctuated fate.) If you’re not familiar with the laws regarding Service Animals, I’d strongly encourage you to read it before continuing, or you might wind up very confused. Continue reading

How Do You Do It?

Ask any Puppy Raiser for any organization what question he or she is asked the most; I’d be willing to bet my life and Bright’s that it’s something to the effect of, “How can you raise and love a puppy, then just give it away? I could never give them up!”

There have been about a thousand blog posts written and graduation speeches given that answer The Question, but I always enjoy hearing from individuals about what motivates them to keep doing what they do. Continue reading

Nancie & Rand: Better Than a Cat

When I’m stressed and feel like I need an outlet, I reach for Bright. Hey, Bryan can only take so much. Her non-judging but still animate presence is comforting, so I brush her or stroke her little muzzle and soft ears and let my worries melt away. Apparently, I’m not alone; more and more practitioners in the helping field are using dogs to help their patients feel at ease and open up during sessions. Continue reading

Brenda and Buffy: How Can I Help You?

Imagine dropping your phone while sitting on a barstool that your bum happens to be glued to. All together now: “Oh no! Not my phone!” Getting up is not an option. Now imagine that the stool has armrests.

Can’t reach the floor, can ya? Stinks, doesn’t it? It’s a situation that users of power wheelchairs find themselves in every day (except the barstool part).

Add to that equation a smart and capable dog who responds to the drop by looking up at you with big brown eyes that say, “Need help?”

The situation’s starting to smell better. Continue reading

Silver Oak School Makes it PAWsible

Last Thursday, Bright and I had the pleasure of presenting to about 700 elementary schoolers at Silver Oak School in San Jose. We were invited because the whole school is participating in an ingenious fundraiser for CCI called Make it PAWsible. Mr. Laraway, a 5th grade teacher, has personal ties to CCI through his sister who received multiple dogs and dedicated much of her time to volunteer work for CCI.

Did you ever do service learning projects when you were in school? The general purpose is to allow students to practice organizational skills and often teamwork while introducing them to some sort of social responsibility. When I was in school, we did things like cleaning up public parks and collecting gently used clothing for donation. Continue reading

I Believe I Can Fly

If you don’t know that R. Kelly reference, click here. If you do, you’re welcome.

Traveling by airplane with a Service Dog is one of those things you do because you have to; not because it’s fun. And let me make this clear: It’s not the dog’s fault that it’s usually not fun. Nevertheless, I love to travel as much as the next guy; whether you’re a Service Dog Partner, a Puppy Raiser, or an innocent bystander, this article will be, at the very least, entertaining, but hopefully also helpful. Continue reading

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

If that title didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.

There’s a question that I get asked a lot, and I never feel like I have enough time to do the answer justice: Did you train her yourself?

I’m going to give you a really quick overview of the journey of a CCI puppy from birth to retirement, but my plan is to spend the bulk of this article paying homage to the people behind our four legged life savers.

So for starters, No. No, I did not train my dog. Continue reading

Team Profile: Meet Noah and Happy

Meet Noah. At 12 years old, he’s your typical pre-teen. He stays up late, goes to school, takes piano and horseback riding lessons, probably sasses his mom from time to time, and until last November, he really wanted a dog. Continue reading