The Cheshire family of Great Falls with the dogs they raised, Buckner, the black Lab, and Zeno, the Golden Retriever. Top, from left: Nikki Cheshire, Raymond Junkins and Ben Cheshire. Bottom, from left: Tory Junkins and Jacqueline Cheshire.
The Cheshire family of Great Falls is raising its 14th Canine Companions for Independence® (CCI) service puppy. In between teaching their dog a reported 30 some commands, Jacqueline Cheshire, CCI's Capital Chapter President, and dedicated volunteers are planning the chapter's seventh annual fundraiser, “DogFest Washington DC |September 20-Virtual.” Previously anchored at Reston Town Center, the event relocated to Facebook amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They hope for a healthy bottom line from event proceeds to help support the non-profit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities. Costs run $50,000 per dog, according to Cheshire.
While precautions related to coronavirus forced organizers to reimagine the charitable event, they also needed to factor into their business model diversified fundraising to counter lost revenue streams and creative event planning. Cheshire said, "We need to keep funding these dogs, raising these dogs, and getting them trained and into the hands of people with disabilities, even though there's a pandemic...Revenue is down, 20 to 30 percent this year...We have very few sponsors because we've not been able to go out and show off the dogs... On the day of the event, ordinarily, we'd have vendor booth fees...and percentage of sales fees…Last year's event attracted over 600 participants and raised over $90,000." On Aug. 4, Cheshire said they had raised $38,000.
U.S. Army CPT Gavin White of Herndon was injured after stepping on an IED while serving in Afghanistan. He applied for an assistance dog with Canine Companions for Independence and matched with Stuart IV in 2015. White and his wife, Karissa, wrote in an email that as a result of the injury, he lost his right leg above the knee and had extremely limited use of his left leg. They added: "Stuart helps Gavin every day, assisting in the application of prosthetics, retrieval of items, and increases his mobility either by walking on Gavin's weak side or letting Gavin know that people are around him... 'Whenever I have Stuart with me, people provide the room I need to use my wheelchair and get around...When I am feeding or changing my daughter it's great to have Stuart there to help. He will pick up items that are dropped or take things to my wife if my hands are full."
Dog lovers and supporters can participate in ‘DogFest Washington DC |September 20 Virtual’ through the newly minted Facebook event page. "This DogFest will certainly be one to remember," said Tory Junkins, Cheshire's daughter. Junkins is taking videos of the dogs for promotion and education. The celebration begins at noon and features a lineup of the human-canine bonding and testimonials by graduates, "almost like a mini telethon," said Cheshire. "Two contests are running. "One is the best dog trick...and the other competition is submitting a photograph of your dog in a costume...People will vote on Facebook." Winners will receive a basket of dog items.
Volunteer forces remain stable during COVID. Stephanie Dagata said, "Puppy Raising is fulfilling, joyful, and educational. It can also be frustrating at times, tiring at times and defeating at times but this is where our wonderful CCI family comes into action. We are all here to help."
"To raise from a puppy of 8 weeks old to 18 months or so, and then turn these loved beautiful puppies, very well behaved to the advanced training (center) and change another's life, is truly a labor of love and giving," said Deb Push of McLean.
Visit Canine Companions for Independence to learn more or to donate.