Ranchos resident receives canine companion
In May 2012, Ranchos resident Mario Giallongo and his wife, Judy, traveled to California for a two week stay. The purpose of their journey was to take part in a training and review course through the nonprofit organization Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).
Mario has a form of muscular dystrophy and uses a power wheelchair. His first assistance dog through CCI was named Salinas – Sali for short – whom he’d received in 1998. She and Mario were a familiar sight in their neighborhood, taking walks and daily treks out to get the mail. Sali was a faithful and constant companion until her passing in 2011.
Having already experienced CCI’s initial screening process when they acquired Sali, the Giallongo’s knew what to expect after receiving the call last May. Upon their arrival at the Charles Shulz campus in Santa Rosa (Northwest Region of CCI), they were paired with several trained dogs in an attempt to find an appropriate match. After 3-4 days, it was determined that a black lab named DeAngelo would make the best partnership. Mario and Judy spent the remainder of their stay in team training with DeAngelo.
The two week stay culminated with a luncheon and graduation ceremony, where Mario and other fellow recipients crossed a stage to greet and receive their respective dogs. During that ceremony, Mario, along with one other classmate, was presented a medal for being a veteran who was receiving a service dog.
Judy recalls bringing DeAngelo home for the first time. He was uncertain until they took him into the backyard. He sniffed around a bit and seemed to understand that he was finally home. His mellow demeanor and desire to please Mario make him a calming presence.
Mario shared the story of suffering from repeated bouts of flu and bronchitis last year. One day, he felt very weak and was settling into bed; DeAngelo was right at his side. Once he was given the okay, DeAngelo gently crawled across the bed and gently kissed Mario’s face.
“We knew then that he was a keeper,” laughs Judy.
Dogs in the Canine Companions for Independence program spend the first 15-16 months of life with a volunteer puppy raiser before returning to the Regional Training Center to further their training with professional instructors. That process typically takes 6-9 months. Following placement, CCI has a comprehensive follow-up program in place to support the working teams and help ensure their success.
For more information about Canine Companions for Independence, log on to http://www.cci.org.
Amy Roby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org