The human-canine bond is truly unique. On our happiest and hardest of days, our dogs love us endlessly. They are our everyday heroes in so many ways. Whether as assistance dogs, working dogs or pet dogs, there are countless tales of man's best friend doing amazing things. Join the fun at your local DogFest or participate virtually as we celebrate the joy dogs bring to our lives. Registration is free. Fundraising is encouraged. There are sponsorship, volunteer, and vendor opportunities too!
When registering, be sure to indicate you are bringing a dog to get your free DogFest dog bandana. Then fundraise to qualify for some fun DogFest swag!
Be sure to check out our Facebook event page for the latest on DogFest North Central, participate in dog-friendly activities and let people know why you are participating. You can even download this fun sign and let everyone know how your dog brings you joy.
DogFest supports the mission of Canine Companions to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs free of charge. These service dogs make a profound impact through the jobs they do like opening doors, picking up dropped items, alerting to sounds and much more.
Join us on October 1, 2023 at 1 p.m. (EST)
DogFest North Central Activities:
Canine Companions transforms the lives of people with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs. Our dogs perform practical tasks that enhance independence and reduce reliance on others. They aren't just the eyes and ears, hands and legs of their human partners, they're also goodwill ambassadors and often, our best friends. A student achieves their dreams of attending college. A veteran gets a good night sleep. A patient can endure an additional procedure. Lives are transformed after being matched and working with a Canine Companions service dog.
According to the U.S. Census, nearly 1 in 4 people in the U.S. have a disability. While it costs approximately $50,000 to raise and train every Canine Companions service dog and provide ongoing support to the human-canine team, each dog is provided to the recipient completely FREE of charge. Canine Companions has placed over 7,500 service dogs, but more than 400 people with disabilities are still waiting for a match.
Our service dogs open up new opportunities and spread incredible joy. By raising funds through DogFest, you support our mission and the people we serve. Thank you.
Canine Companions in North Central
Meet Stryder and Service Dog Fonz
Like most 10-year-old kids, Stryder is adventurous, energetic and loves to play. But having the stamina to always keep up with his peers can be a challenge. Stryder has spina bifida, which impacts his legs, the way he walks and how his body grows. Because of this, Stryder uses crutches and sometimes a wheelchair. If you ask Stryder about his life, though, he’ll tell you a benefit of having spina bifida is that he gets to have a service dog. Stryder was matched with Canine Companions service dog Fonz in 2019, and they’ve been best friends ever since. His mom, Becca, says Stryder struggled in the past with feeling dependent on his peers. Now, Fonz provides him with a sense of empowerment. “In the life that Stryder leads there are often twists and turns that we don’t know are coming. That can be scary for a 10-year-old kid,” says Becca. “Stryder has someone to look after for the first time instead of the other way around. Fonz is truly his best friend.” Fonz helps Stryder be more independent by retrieving his crutches, opening doors and often staying by Stryder’s side during a weekly medical procedure. Stryder confirms, “He’s my very best friend and I just love him so much!”
For some children, being in an unfamiliar setting like a hospital can be scary, especially when that child has experienced some sort of trauma. That’s where Clinical Therapist Tyson and Canine Companions Facility Dog Boltz come in. The two work as a team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide therapeutic services and comfort kids in times of crisis. Together, Tyson and Boltz teach valuable life skills that will help children become more independent, build self esteem, improve socialization and more. Tyson says Boltz helps patients by opening doors, painting and drawing with them, as well as providing pressure and comfort by performing a “lap” and “visit.” In some cases, Boltz plays fetch, volleyball, and has even been known to play hide and seek with some patients. But Boltz’s impact is felt far beyond that. Tyson says his presence has enhanced experiences for many patients at Nationwide Children’s, adding, “He has really helped kids feel even more safe and comfortable with his presence which helps form a stronger therapeutic relationship with the patients we see.”
Ask Colt about his Canine Companions service dog, Wink, and he’ll tell you that she’s his best friend. Colt’s mother, Shannon, knows just how special that title is, especially considering making new friends can sometimes be a challenge for her son. Colt was born with a rare heart defect and had a cardiac arrest when he was only a few weeks old. But even at such a young age, Colt was strong. He was still in the hospital at the time and a doctor was able to manually pump Colt’s heart and get it going again. As a result, Colt's speech is delayed, as well as his ability to perform certain activities, and he experiences hearing loss. Now, years later, Colt is your typical 14-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, dressing up for Halloween and trips to Disney World... with his best friend Wink, of course.
Shannon was no stranger to Canine Companions when her friend – a former board member – suggested she apply for a service dog for Colt. “I had volunteered with Canine Companions when I lived in Orlando… many years before my husband and I had our twin boys. I knew then what an incredible program it was,” says Shannon. Now, Colt and Wink are inseparable. "She cuddles me and loves me and is my best friend,” Colt confirms. Wink helps Colt during his physical therapy exercises and has also played a role in helping improve his speech. "Wink helps Colt by giving him a body to offer support and to love," says Shannon. “We are so incredibly grateful to Canine Companions for the help given to Colt and so many other children and adults."