TEMPLE, Texas — In our continuing series, Journey's Journey, we are following a local dog and her puppy raiser as she embarks on her journey to become a service animal with Canine Companions for Independence.
6 News Anchor Leslie Draffin got the chance to go along with Journey to puppy training to see some of the things she's learning.
In this puppy class, all of the dogs are training to become service animals. From the smallest pup, like Magnolia who is just 10 weeks old, to older dogs like Journey, everyone here is on a mission to help others. Even their trainer, Kim Donnell.
"I love this organization. It's such a feel-good thing to do. I considered originally raising a CCI puppy that a friend of mine was doing," Donnel said. "I thought I could probably offer more by helping the entire community of CCI puppies, rather than just raising my one dog and staying focused in there. So that's how I got started, and I just love every minute of it. It's super fun."
Donnell donates an hour every week to training the CCI dogs and their raisers. It saves people like Phil Davis from paying out of pocket to get his dog Journey up to speed on her basic skills.
During this class the dogs worked on basic commands like sit, lay down, stand, heel, shake and bark. They also practiced walking over unfamiliar surfaces and going through tunnels.
Donnell led everyone through the drills, always giving corrections and encouragements. She said she's watched Journey progress a long way since she started nearly a year ago.
"Journey is the perfect name for that dog she has had a journey. She started out a little rocky. Phil was a new puppy raiser and Journey was a bundle of energy. Some of the dogs are a little more calm and some are into everything. She was in the 'into everything' category, and they struggled a lot at first with, you know, getting her under control and paying attention and she has come, super far" Donnell said. "Her focus is really good now, she can pay attention with all the distractions going on, and she can listen and really follow through with her commands so that's their, I'd say, their big gold star moment."
In November, Draffin will travel up to Irving to check out a Canine Companions for Independence graduation where dogs complete their training and find out their new job. Of course, Journey isn't ready for that just yet.
Journey is expected to head to more advanced training early next summer and 6 News will be following her journey the whole way there.
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