Canine Companions for Independence enhancing lives of those with disabilities

Morten Johnson of Kingsburg (left) with his canine companion, Rambler. [Photo contributed by Canine Companions for Independence]

By Alexandria T. Montes | Reporter

Canine Companions for Independence is a human service, non-profit organization that provides highly-trained assistance dogs for people with a wide range of disabilities. The organization has been around since 1975, and it is the oldest and largest organization of its kind with six regional training centers.

The non-profit organization provides the dog, its training and ongoing follow-ups completely free of charge. It offers four different categories for assistance dogs: service dog to help adults with disabilities, skilled companions who help kids and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, hearing dogs who help the deaf and facility dogs who are partnered with professionals who work with people with disabilities daily like special education teachers and physical therapists.

“Our mission is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships,” said Katie Malatino, Public Relations Coordinator for Canine Companions for Independence.

Morten Johnson of Kingsburg is a successor graduate and has been partnered with his second dog and best friend, Rambler. Johnson, who was once a dentist, has the progressive disease multiple sclerosis and over time has gradually lost his mobility where he currently uses a powered wheelchair. He has been dealing with this disease for 30 years and says having the backing from of one of the most reputable organizations along with their assistance dog makes him feel like he has a purpose in life.

Rambler is a black Labrador and can perform several commands. He helps Morten with daily tasks like opening and closing doors, cupboards, pushing elevator buttons, as well as presenting his wallet when necessary. You can find Rambler on the side, in front or behind of Morten’s wheelchair watching intently to insure he is right there wherever Morten decides to go.

“Rambler is a lover, he shows affection and unconditional love,” Morten said, “He’s just someone there for me, he’s my emotional support.”

“It’s amazing what these dogs can do for people when they are broken.” Carol, Morten’s Caregiver says, “Rambler has brought a huge joy around the house to all of us, we all appreciate the fact that he is here.”

Malatino said that it’s meeting people like Morton that make her job so rewarding, and seeing the impact that the dogs make.

“The ongoing component is one of the things that makes us unique because there are quite a few organizations that place the dog without further communication,” Malatino added. ‘And that is what we pride ourselves on – our relationships with our clients.”