These Canines Are Life-Changing Companions
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These Canines Are Life-Changing Companions

These Canines Are Life-Changing Companions

Aloha and Ninja may look like dogs, but to their humans, they are life-changing heroes.

The dogs are two of thousands that Canine Companions for Independence have bred and trained to serve individuals with disabilities. Sometimes that means assisting in facilities like 7 Senses Therapy, where Aloha helps children who have autism, cerebral palsy or other conditions.

“[Aloha] is an important motivator,” said Lauren Flores, who founded the Viera pediatric therapy facility with her husband, Alex, and is an expert in the field of animal assisted therapy. “She uses many commands that help the children improve their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory processing and so much more.”

Canine Companions dogs assist with activities that increase the independence of people with disabilities — things like turning on lights, picking up dropped keys, pulling their humans in a wheelchair and pushing elevator buttons.

While Aloha works with many humans, Ninja focuses on being the ears for Viera resident Karen Londos, who is deaf.

“He gives me confidence,” Londos said. “Growing up, I always felt very isolated and the worse my hearing got, the more withdrawn I got. My dog drew me out of my shell and helped me feel more comfortable navigating around my virtually silent world.” 

Puppy-in-training Kenji will hopefully soon join Aloha and Ninja in making a difference in the life of someone who can use assistance. Training for Canine Companions service dogs begins with volunteer puppy raisers like Merritt Island resident Jennifer Powell. Puppy raisers provide critical early socialization needed before the dogs go to “canine college” for the exhaustive training required to be a service animal.

A former flight attendant, Powell had met several of these incredible canines on flights and was impressed with their devotion, impeccable manners and sense of duty.

“After my last dog passed away, I decided that I had the opportunity to become involved with Canine Companions and applied to be a puppy raiser,” she said.

She and Kenji are constant buddies, until he returns to the Canine Companions Orlando campus for further training at around 18 months old.  

“Kenji often goes to the grocery store, restaurants, etc.,” Powell said. “We love the puppy like it is our own and want it to succeed. Success means a new life to the person receiving Canine Companions dogs.”

Parting with Kenji will bring sweet sorrow, but Powell takes comfort that he is destined to be a hero.  

Understandably, hundreds of individuals, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are on the waiting list for their own Canine Companions miracle. The nonprofit depends on donations and special events, like the recent Run 4 Paws in Viera, to raise the money necessary to provide the highly trained animals for free.

Aloha, Ninja and Kenji not only serve their people, but by their very being, they raise awareness of the critical job Canine Companions achieve.

“I was given a gift I can never repay, so I can only pay it forward by doing whatever I can to continue to work to help change the lives of others, as my life was changed by this extraordinary organization,” Londos said.  


Canine Companions for Independence


Facebook: /caninecompanions 

Instagram: @CanineOrg 

Twitter: @CanineOrg 

YouTube: /CanineCompanions 

TikTok: @canineorg  

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