Ashley Koehler is the Development Associate with Canine Companions for Independence.

Ashley Koehler is the Development Associatewith Canine Companions for Independence.

1. Ashley can you tell how Canine Companions for Independence came about and who it helps?
Canine Companions was established in 1975 with the mission to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Assistance dogs from Canine Companions are placed with individuals with physical disabilities other than blindness. Some of the disabilities served by Canine Companions include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury. Canine Companions provides assistance dogs completely free of charge to the recipients.

2. What sort of tasks does the average Canine Companion perform for the person they are helping?
Assistance dogs from Canine Companions master over 40 commands and are able to retrieve dropped items, open and close doors and drawers, turn on and off light switches, and even help pull manual wheelchairs. Canine Companions also has a hearing dog program where dogs are trained to alert their deaf or hard-of-hearing partners to important sounds in their environment – such as fire alarms, a knock at the door or someone calling their name.

3. How can someone in the community help out by fundraising or becoming a volunteer puppy raiser? What is involved if someone would like to participate? What percentage of the puppies have what it takes to make it through 'college' and become an assistance dog?
As a non-profit organization, Canine Companions is always looking for volunteers to help with fundraising and community awareness.
People interested in helping in these areas can contact our Kansas City Volunteer Chapter at to learn more.
Canine Companions is also always looking for volunteer puppy raisers.
These special volunteers spend approximately 16 months providing basic obedience and socialization to a specially bred Canine Companions' puppy before returning it to the organization for professional training. Approximately 40 percent of the dogs successfully complete professional training and go on to become assistance dogs. To learn more about this exciting volunteer opportunity visit

4. Can you tell us about the Canine Companions' Wounded Veterans Initiative?
In 2007 Canine Companions created the Wounded Veterans Initiative to make veterans aware of the benefits of assistance dogs.
Canine Companions has provided many assistance dogs to U.S. war veterans across the country.
For a veteran making a new start putting their life back together from an injury, an assistance dog can provide the help they need to regain independence.

5. What are some examples of people with specific disabilities being helped with daily tasks?
Assistance dogs from Canine Companions work to increase independence for people with disabilities. Imagine not being able to reach your phone in an emergency or being locked out of your house because you dropped your keys and cannot pick them up.
These are some of the tasks Canine Companions' assistance dogs can complete to enhance peoples' lives.
They also act as social icebreakers in public, taking peoples' attention away from someone's disability and providing a conversation starter.

— Rimsie McConiga