Service dogs helping veterans and others with disabilities live independently


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington nonprofit is making it easier for people with disabilities to have access to service dogs and live independently.

Established in 1996, Canines for Service (CFS) trains highly-skilled service dogs for people with disabilities.

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The program has a strong emphasis on placing service dogs with veterans with mobility limitations, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.

Recently, CFS placed its 100th service dog with Army Veteran Corey Lee. He served in the Army for more than nine years where he sustained multiple knee and back injuries.

Lee received a service dog named “Roman,” a tan and white Labrador Retriever mix. Roman came from Rescue Animals Community Effort (RACE) located in Shallotte, NC.

“We knew Mr. Lee and Roman would be a perfect match, and in their short time together, I have already seen an incredible bond form,” said Rick Hairston, President and CEO of Canines for Service. “Mr. Lee is more confident and independent with Roman by his side and together they are going to do great things.”

Hairston suffers from degenerative joint disease and has a service dog named “Jordan” who helps with a number of routine tasks.

“I have a tendency to drop a lot of items and if I trip and fall, he helps me recover from a fall and retrieve the items I happen to drop,” Hairston said.

All of the dogs in the CFS program are rescue dogs and primarily come from local shelters and rescues.

During a 12-month period, the dogs are trained in over 90 different commands. They are trained by training staff, students learning how to train service dogs and military prisoners at the brig at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

With their high-level of training, the dogs are valued at $54,000 but CFS’s clients are not charged anything. The nonprofit receives funding from donors, grants and fundraisers.

The goal of the program is to make people more independent.

“We want them to be able to go out in the public to live life and in Corey’s case, he wanted to be back to normal,” Hairston said. “Its going to be a new normal for him to be the best he can be.”