We interviewed Sarah Zetlmeisl, public relations and marketing coordinator for Canine Companions’ Southwest Region. Let’s get right to the Q&A!
So imagine you start talking with a fellow pedestrian while you’re waiting to cross the street, and the walk signal just…won’t…come. How do you introduce your work and your organization?
I would start by saying I am super lucky to work for Canine Companions, the leader in the service dog industry. Canine Companions transforms the lives of people with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs that assist with practical tasks, as well as provide unconditional love and acceptance—at no cost to our clients. The powerful human–canine relationship leads to increased independence, self-esteem and inclusion for a person with a disability.
And now I’m out and about. Where am I most likely to see a Canine Companions–trained service dog?
You could see a Canine Companions service dog just about anywhere! We serve adults, children and veterans with physical and cognitive disabilities. We serve people with over 65 different disabilities.
We train service dogs for:
- Adults with physical, cognitive and auditory disabilities;
- Children with physical and cognitive disabilities; and
- Veterans with physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
We also train facility dogs to work with professionals in health-care, rehabilitation and criminal justice settings. So our service dogs can also be found working in schools, hospitals, police departments and health-care facilities.
It’s remarkable that there is no charge to receive a service dog! Tell me about your process. About how long do participants wait for their dogs once they’re accepted?
Yes, our service dogs and all follow-up services are provided at no cost to our clients! The average wait is slightly more than a year, with most clients receiving a dog within six to 18 months of application. More than 98 percent of our placements are successful, which is higher than most peer agencies. Canine Companions continues to invest a great deal of time and effort into raising this rate.
I read that Canine Companions typically places 325–375 service dogs per year. Did that hold steady in 2020 and 2021? How many dogs have been placed since the founding of the organization in 1975?
Yes, we were very fortunate to place over 350 service dogs in 2020. And in 2021, we placed 373 teams free of charge. Since our founding in 1975, over 7,100 people have received a Canine Companions service dog.
It looks like the 2022 series of DogFest events is about to kick off. What happens at this event? Who should participate?
DogFest is a family-friendly and dog-friendly festival that raises funds and awareness for Canine Companions. It is our national signature event that is held all over the country, including Colorado!
What is your organization’s most pressing need? And who typically steps up to meet it?
Canine Companions relies on the work and generosity of thousands of incredible volunteers and donors all across the country who help support our mission. We couldn’t do our work without them. If someone is interested in learning more or getting involved, they can visit canine.org.
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