Canine Companions For Independence Is In Town!

Kiro is a yellow lab who will be with Jacinta Lestone of Proton Pawsitive Dog Training for the next 20 months. Courtesy photo

Kiro the yellow lab relaxes with a friend. Courtesy photo


Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) has come to Los Alamos! Kiro (pronounced Cairo), a yellow lab, will be with Jacinta Lestone of Proton Pawsitive Dog Training for the next 20 months. He will learn his basic commands and how to behave appropriately in public, including in businesses such as the grocery store or restaurants. After this time he will go back to his advanced trainers for task work.

A service dog “task” is a trained behavior to directly mitigate a disability, such as picking up dropped items for somebody with mobility issues or giving tactile pressure to somebody with autism. Canine Companions for Independence trains a variety of service dogs. Kiro might become a mobility assistance dog, a hearing dog, a dog for a  child with developmental disabilities, or a facility dog for a retirement home or therapists office. His advanced trainers will work with him to see what his aptitude is, and make the determination at that time. 

About 40 percent of CCI puppies go onto graduate with the program; those who do not have the correct personality for this specific work or have medical issues that would prevent them from doing their job might get a “career change” to become a drug sniffing dog, search and rescue dog, or therapy dog, or might become a pet.

CCI trains approximately 300 service dogs per year. These dogs are free of charge for those in need.

According to the Americans for Disabilities Act, a service dog is a dog who has trained tasks to directly mitigate their handler’s disability. Disabled handlers with their dogs, considered medical equipment and not pets, have access to go anywhere that members of the public can go, such as grocery stores or restaurants.

These rights do not extend to handlers of therapy dogs, who are trained to provide emotional support to those in the hospital or schools, nor do they extend to handlers of emotional support animals, untrained dogs who simply provide comfort without offering a trained service.

Pretending that your dog is a service dog, or taking your therapy or emotional support dog into places where pets are not allowed, can jeopardize the safety and the ability to lead a normal life for those with genuine service dogs.

If you see a service dog out in public, the most appropriate response is to ignore their presence completely, much like you would ignore the presence of somebody’s walker or oxygen tank, while acknowledging the person themselves. Keep in mind that the handler is just trying to get through their day normally, and the dog is focused on their work, so it is best not to distract the dog or handler by petting them or asking questions.

If you are a business owner and a service dog comes into your facility, be aware of your rights. If unsure about the genuine status of the dog, you may ask the handler:

  • Is that a service dog?; and;
  • What task is the service dog trained to do for you?

Keep in mind that you may not ask about the handler’s private medical information or disability, nor may you ask for certification – there is no nationally recognized certification or license for service dogs. If a service dog misbehaves in your store (has a potty accident, acts aggressive, or is not under control), you may ask the handler to remove the dog and give the handler an alternate way to obtain your service, but you may not ask the handler to remove the dog due to any allergies or fears from employees or customers.

To learn more about becoming a CCI puppy raiser and what CCI does, visit To learn more about service dogs and dog training, visit To follow Kiro and his progress, visit protonpawsitive or protonpawsitive.

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