More Stories of Independence

Mia and Vizzini

Mia Ives-Rublee has a longstanding relationship with Canine Companions that spans over 24 years, starting when she was 13 years old. Mia has osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease, and this results in bones getting fractured and broken easily, affecting her mobility.

Mia was first matched with Steven, then Arianne. Steven retrieved anything she dropped and reduced Mia’s reliance on her parents, and Ari helped Mia by pulling her manual wheelchair and carrying items. With Ari’s help, Mia went on to compete in wheelchair track and field, fencing and CrossFit events, all while pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 2019, Service Dog Vizzini took over, helping pull Mia around Washington, D.C., where she works in disability policy and advocacy.

Each service dog in Mia’s life has enhanced her independence by pulling her manual wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, carrying her lunch to her office, turning on lights and much more—so she can live her life to the fullest.

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Oliver & Ziti

Oliver was born with a disability and uses a manual wheelchair to get around. His parents’ wanted to provide Oliver with enhanced independence so he could live his life to the fullest. Luckily, Canine Companions was a familiar organization to them, as Oliver’s cousin received his service dogs from us. Oliver was matched with Service Dog Ziti, and it was meant to be. “For Oliver and Ziti, it was love at first sight,” says Oliver’s dad, Stephen. “Oliver has matured so much already and seems so confident when strolling along with Ziti. It feels like Ziti has always been part of our family!”

Ziti helps Oliver bring items from one side of the house to another with enthusiasm. Lacy, Oliver’s mom says, “Ziti helps tug a box with those items wherever he needs it. Not only does it make things easier for Oliver, but Ziti gets so excited to do his job!”

Because of Ziti, Oliver is a more confident, young boy, with a new hope for the future!

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Roger & Dixon

man standing in the forest with yellow lab in blue service vest sitting beside himU.S. Marine Roger Rua had over 100 security patrols as a machine gunner in Afghanistan with the 9th Engineering Support Battalion, Security Platoon. On March 29, 2012, he awakened after a night on the road for an early patrol and was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) within 10 seconds of opening his eyes.

Roger was paralyzed from the chest down. After months of rehabilitation, he slowly regained sensation, with enough movement to walk again. It was the abrupt transition from Marine to civilian that became his next challenge.

The experience left Roger with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the lingering impacts of his spinal cord injury. Roger sought help from Canine Companions—and he was matched with Service Dog Dixon.

Service Dog Dixon is trained in tasks to help with Roger’s symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), interrupting anxiety attacks and nightmares, and retrieving items Roger can’t reach during flareups of his spine.

“Dixon has helped limit my anxiety and panic attacks to a point where it’s manageable. With a spinal cord injury, the worst thing I can do is sit around and do nothing. Thanks to Dixon, I can get out of the house, knowing he’s right there to help me physically and mentally when I need him.”

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