Canine Companion: Service dog helps New York girl overcome obstacles


ALBANY, N.Y.(NEWS10) – For some people with disabilities, even the simplest of tasks can be daunting. But with a fury friend by their side, some of those people are able to find their independence.

A national non-profit called Canine Companions for Independence, or CCI, breeds, trains, and matches service dogs to people with disabilities who need them most.

People such as Morgan McCarthy from Saratoga Springs need a service dog. She tells News10 since being paired with her service dog Dewey, her whole life has changed for the better.

Some people would look at 21-year-old Morgan McCarthy and see a girl in a chair struggling to overcome a disability with the help of her service dog Dewey. If you ask Morgan, she’ll tell you she sees freedom and her best friend.

“Part of my life before having Dewey was always having someone around me and now I don’t necessarily have to do that,” said Morgan.

Morgan has Cerebral Palsy, which is a neuromuscular disease. She’s spent the better part of her life with her mom Prudence by her side.

“We all walk around every day with an invisible backpack full of troubles. And I don’t know what your troubles are and usually you don’t know what mines are. A lot of times you can see Morgan’s,” said Prudence.

That all changed last year when Morgan met Dewey, a lovable, spirited and trained companion dog to help her get through life. But there are still places Morgan doesn’t have complete access to, even with Dewey by her side.

“Thank you,” said Morgan as a woman opened a door for her.

“”It’s embarrassing to have to constantly ask for help like that, “said Morgan.

That’s where Dewey’s ability to follow commands comes in. Morgan can tell him to press a button and he can actually open doors for her.

“He does most of the work. I don’t have to do a lot on my end. And I can just go about my day, “said Morgan.

It took thousands of people and a lot of time to get Dewey ready for his job.

“They are cut out for this. They go through 2 years of training for this,” said Morgan.

That’s where puppy raisers like Chris Cullen and her family come in. Over more than a decade, the Cullens have trained 3 CCI puppies. And now, they are on their fourth.

Barney is four months old and is well on his way to being a great service dog for someone in need.

Right now it’s mostly making sure Barney stays focused.

“When we’re doing specific training the vest goes on and the head collar goes on,” said Chris Cullen.

The Cullen’s will have Barney for about a year and a half before he goes to his final training with CCI.

“It’s our calling. We’ll keep doing it as long as necessary because there’s not enough trainers out there, “said Chris Cullen.

The question the Cullens get asked most often is one News10 asked as well: Don’t you get attached to the puppies you raise?

Chris said that’s part of what makes these dogs great companions.

“And the point is that he’s bonded with us and the bond that he has with us will be the bond he has with his end recipient,” said Chris Cullen.

A bond both Morgan and Prudence felt the first time they met Dewey.

“As soon as he looked up at me I knew that I was taking him home because I just felt it,” said Morgan.

“It was just the way he looked at us. He leaned in. And I just knew,” said Prudence.

Since then, Morgan’s life has been forever changed.

News10 asked Morgan if she could ever be without Dewey and she responded “Not anymore. I mean I’ve waited a long time to get him. And now I just feel like he’s a part of me. Those eyes, they tell you a lot. He just wants to please and he’s the best dog ever.”

CCI is always looking for me people to help raise companion puppies that one day will grow to help someone in need, just like Morgan.

To learn more about CCI click here:

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