If you know Buckley Community Service Director Chris Braunschweiger, you know her life has been devoted to helping others through her teaching and her personal and professional commitment to community service. Whether you believe in karma or coincidence, the stars aligned recently for Chris and her partner Peggy, to bring the invaluable love and resources of a service dog into their lives.
It started in November 2010 with an email from former Buckley parent and trustee, Ellen Tutsch, inquiring if Chris would be interested in getting Buckley students active with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities. As it turns out, Chris and Peggy were in early discussions about looking into an assistance dog for Peggy, who suffered significant brain trauma several years ago.
After visiting Tutsch, and meeting her husband Glen’s dog, Ms. Bo, they decided to go for it. On April 1, in the last step of a lengthy application process, they drove to Oceanside to interview with members of the CCI team. They were told to expect a response as to whether or not they were accepted into the program by mail in two weeks. If they were lucky enough to get in, they would wait 6-28 months to be matched with a dog. But three days later, not only did they learn they were accepted in the program, they were invited into the very next training session – to fill a last minute cancellation.
Chris and Peggy spent May 2-May 14 at a special CCI facility where the already highly trained dogs are matched with their humans and the staff spends 12 days training the humans to successfully operate and care for their amazing canines. There they met Ogden the III, aka Oggie the Doggie, who has already transformed their lives.
“This has been such an amazing, amazing experience and we’re just getting started,” says Braunschweiger. “Oggie is a natural anti-depressant, which is a huge deal for someone with brain injury. He is also a great ice breaker. It’s difficult for Peggy to interact with people, partially because she can’t see well, and having Oggie will help in getting her out in public.”
Oggie is trained to do many things like picking up dropped items and opening and closing doors or drawers. Braunschweiger calls him Peggy’s personal trainer, because just having a dog has increased her activity level greatly, and activities such as playing fetch provide therapeutic practice for eye hand coordination.
Braunschweiger can’t say enough about the professionalism of CCI and the great gift they have provided her family. We say it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving couple. Welcome to the Buckley family, Oggie. For more information on Canine Companions for Independence, check out their website at www.cci.org.