Tim and His Service Dog

service_pet_metroTimothy is a social 20 year old man who enjoys the company of others.  Timothy also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Unfortunately, many people are put off by his wheelchair and have trouble starting conversations with him. 5 years ago, Tim’s parents decided to adopt a service pet, and soon after, Metro became part of their family. Now people come up to Tim to talk with him about his dog, providing social opportunities of conversation and laughter in Tim’s life. His mother loves watching people talking with Tim and particularly enjoys when Tim is asked if they can pet his dog – he smiles and says, “Better not, he is vicious.”

AbilityPath recently sat down with Tim’s mother, Teresa, to hear their story.

Teresa, how did you find Metro?
Metro came from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). There was an application process to determine if Tim was eligible and if we, as a family, had the ability to care for a pet.

What was the Process?
CCI breeds dogs. When they are ready to leave their mother, they are placed in volunteer “puppy raisers” homes where they receive socialization and obedience training.  When the puppy is between the ages of fifteen and eighteen months, they return to a CCI Regional Training Center for six months of training. Once dogs can pass all the tests, (having food fall on their head and not look at it, rabbits hop around them and they don’t pay attention), families are invited to “doggy camp”; where they stay in dormitories and participate in a two-week training course.

The trainers “dog match” families. In our case, the dog chose us. Metro marched over and put his head in Tim’s lap and decided this was his boy. Lucky for us he was a golden retriever, our favorite type of dog.

What does Metro do?
Metro has 60 commands he is able to follow.  Because Tim has his dad and me as his personal slaves Metro is not required to do that much. He picks things up that Tim drops (which could keep three dogs busy). Tim loves to throw the ball and Metro will bring it back and set it on his tray – this can go on for hours. He also opens and closes doors and cupboards, turns lights off and on and brings in the groceries (okay maybe that last one is for me). I am currently training him do to the laundry.
When Metro is working can others play with him?

If a service pet is wearing his vest, nothing should disrupt him. He ignores people and animals while on duty, won’t even give them a sniff. If someone wants to pet him, they can ask Tim to give Metro the “release” command to be off duty.
Take off that vest and he is a silly puppy that loves to steal socks and slippers. He also opens the back door by himself; I swear I can hear Metro laughing as he escapes to the backyard to run around.

Would you recommend getting a service pet?
If you like dogs then I would say DO IT! CCI, like many compounds, often have waiting lists. If you are interested, get on a waiting list – you can always decline if you are not ready when they call. I recommend checking your state and regional programs. In California if you or your child is on Medi-Cal or SSI, your dog receives a $50/month stipend.

I would like to tell you a story that touched my heart. After the two week training period, there is a graduation ceremony. The puppy raisers meet the families and present the dogs to the graduates. It is an emotional time for everyone. I asked our puppy raiser, how she could give up these wonderful creatures after being with them for a year. She looked at Tim, smiling from ear to ear with Metro’s head in his lap and said “How could I not?”

Service Animals are legally defined and trained under Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in all public places.

Therapy Animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They are usually the personal pets of their handlers, and work with their handlers to provide services to others. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have “no pets” policies.

Companion Animals are not legally defined, but are accepted as another term for pet.

‘Social/therapy’ Animals are animals that did not complete service animal or service dog training due to health, disposition, trainability, or other factors, and are made available as pets for people who have disabilities. These animals might or might not meet the definition of service animals.


Types of Service Pets:

  • Low vision
  • Hearing
  • Seizures
  • Service Dogs
  • Diabetes
  • Companion Dogs
  • Facility dogs