Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tribute to Marvelous Mercer

A young woman realized that there were many things that she could not do, so instead she wrote stories about how her service dog Mercer could do them for her. Mercer would go ice skating for her, and do everything that she couldn't do. Mercer's stories were published and have warmed the hearts of everyone that has read them.
Sadly, Mercer passed away from cancer at the end of June. He was strong and I know that Shea loved him with all her heart.

The latest version of the Northeast Companion (CCI's newsletter for the Northeast Region) was just delivered to my house this morning. Inside, Shea had written a heart-wrenching tribute to her wonderful friend, Mercer. It touched me so much that I wanted to share it with you all:

"My dear CCI family,
Here is one of those letters I thought I wouldn't be writing until years from now.

As many of you know, me sweet Mercer, born February 15th, 2:10 am, 15 perfect ounces, died of cancer on a weekday in June. I was overseas in Europe - my hero protected me from the pain of seeing him so ill, until the day he died.

After Mercer wasn't there to greet me off the plane, I was told in the parking lot of JFK that he was gone. It was the first time in my entire life where I wanted my world to fade to black. I put my head against the car seat and broke down. "He was my world," I cried. "My entire world."

And like a dear friend would soon tell me, "He still is."
I did then the only thing I could think to do. I started to sing.
Phil Collins - "You'll Be In My Heart." Our song. The same song I would sing to him during thunderstorms, or while he was gently falling asleep in his kennel.
"I know you can hear me," I cried.
And he did.

A week later, on my way to visit a special friend of Mercer's, I turned on the channel of the radio. It was as if the song switched on the exact moment I landed on it.
Disney songs? Never on the radio.
And now, I still see him forming little black circles on my bed, watching me with those infinitely knowing eyes. I know now what he would say to me from heaven.
"Why are you crying?" he'd look at me in bewilderment. "I'm here. And my job is never done. Not even now."

Not even now - I've already met my guardian angel. And once again Merc, you know so much more than I do.
But you've taught me, Mercer. Life is about pulling our head back up from the car seat, and watching the headlights go by you. It's about feeling your heart beating, and wondering if that was a second beat you might have felt with you somehow.

And it's about holding on. Holding on to your collar, holding on to you with all that I am.

Don't think I am letting go.
I love you my sweet boy.

Our hearts and thoughts still go out to the Megale family and amazing Shea. Be strong and know that we are all here for you if there is ever anything you need.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Puppy Pictures to Make You Smile

Not much going on right now as we gear up for the NJ-Chapter's benefit in a week and a half. YIKES! Lots of work to still be done!
But here are some cute puppy pictures that should make you smile! I'll post again (hopefully) when things calm down a bit after the event!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Daniel's Charity Baseball Game

This past Sunday, CCI was very honored to be the beneficiary of Daniel's Charity Baseball Game! The background story? Daniel wanted to help out other people and decided to host a charity baseball game every year. Each year he would choose a charity and donate all the proceeds from the game to that organization. This year he chose CCI to be the beneficiary!Thanks to our NJ Chapter Public Relations Chair, Jen, for getting us all involved. I believe that she knew the family when she was raising Callie and that's how they learned about CCI in the first place. The game was a "pickup" baseball game between the 11th graders at Daniel's school and the Westfield Police Department. It was a ton of fun and you could see that everyone was having a good time as well.
They had set up some tables which they put auction items on. You could buy a ticket to place in the bags to put in your "bid". Then at the end of the event, Daniel went around picking out numbers and handing out the prizes. It was very well done!
The dogs had a lot of fun meeting everyone and everyone had fun meeting the pups!
Thank you again Daniel for choosing CCI and for inviting us to be there! It was a great event and we had a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Way to go Sgt. Cila & SD Gillian!

CCI has launched a nation-wide Wounded Veteran's Initiative where they are trying to unite many wounded vets with Service Dogs. The NER recently graduated their first Veteran with SD Gillian. It's a fascinating story from the PR to the day of graduation.

Gillian's PR was a young girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 10. She applied for a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation. Her wish was to raise a Service Dog, and her wish was granted. She received Gillian and it was great to see that Gillian graduated!

Gillian has helped out her new partner, Sergeant Sam Cila, and he was recently interviewed about CCI, You can read the interview here.

Happy Reading and way to go Sam and Gillian!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Congratulations to Canine Companions for Independence on the release and start of their new blog! is now up and running. They will be updating it with things that are going on across the country. This is a great new step in the direction of new media. Blogging is the big thing today and I know that they learned a lot at BlogPaws this past weekend.

Good job guys!!

The link will be in my links section so that anyone can go view it when they want to know what CCI is up to!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

U.S. Open Tennis Day

Awesome day! Today we had a CCI event at the US Open in Flushing, Queens, NY. Let's just say was incredible!

We left the house today around 9 am and arrived at Flushing Meadows Corona Park around 10:30 am. None of the events started until 11 so we wandered around outside all of the stadiums. Our tickets didn't get us into Arthur Ashe Stadium where the big players were competing, but we had access to all the other courts. We took some pictures once we walked in:I should have known how the day would go when one of the women working the event stood by Bright as we were waiting for the humans to take "hurry" breaks so that she could make sure that no one stepped on her tail!

We then made our way over to Court 11 where the wheelchair tennis was being played. I don't know how many people have seen this being played, but let me tell you...these guys are amazing. One of the guys had his racket strapped around his wrist with a bungee band thingy. The other guy actually had his racket taped to his hand! They were moving all over the court and moving so much faster than I can even run. They put my tennis skills to shame!

Around 12:00 we headed over to the South Gate where there is a really nice fountain. Here we gathered to do a photo shoot. One of our PRs is a professional photographer and Jen has been working the US Open so she knows a LOT of the press people there. It was awesome! I don't know where the photos will show up, but it was really neat anyways! We also had a great time socializing the puppies. As usual, we drew quite a crowd!
Then it was a quick "hurry" break out of the complex and Bright and I had fun and took a picture with the globe and fountain behind her. So neat!
We then headed over to the Louis Armstrong Stadium to see the #1 ranked woman in the world in wheelchair tennis, Esther Vergeer. She's incredible! Her opponent, Florence Alix-Gravellier, gave her a lot of competition, but ended up losing to her in 2 sets, both 7-5. These women were amazing and wheelchair tennis is so neat to watch. After they serve the ball they usually spin their chairs around so that they can get in position to return the ball. I was able to get a bit of video from the match. Just watch how Vergeer moves around the court.

Like I said....amazing!

With wheelchair tennis, the players are given an extra bounce. Instead of having only one bounce's time to get to the ball, the rules are made so that the ball can bounce one more time. This makes sense since they don't have the same movement available to them like able-bodied athletes do. I thought it was a neat little difference and most of the time the athletes didn't need to take the extra bounce, they were just that fast getting to the ball!

While we were sitting and watching the match, we saw that we were being filmed by a cameraman! I think Jen was friends with this guy also and he definitely got a lot of footage of the pups playing with all of us and also enjoying the match.
We left quickly because we were made aware that Anna Kournikova was there doing a photo shoot and autograph session. So we quickly bought a tennis ball and patiently waited in line to meet Anna. The whole time we were being followed around by the cameraman! It felt like we were all celebrities and were in the middle of filming a reality tv show. So cool!

Anna Kournikova was extremely nice and she loves dogs! I think she wanted to take a few of the pups home with her...
In talking to Jen, she said that they were going to do some kind of special or something with the footage that was shot of the pups during the day. Now that would be nice! The cameraman said that he got a lot of great video. Way to go guys!

After that it was time to was already 6pm! As we were headed out we saw a HUGE tennis ball and, of course, the pups had to play with it! It was hilarious watching them jump around the ball. They all wanted to play!
As we were walking out, they had a bunch of workers lined up saying goodbye to people as they left the complex. Well, we knew that we wouldn't be able to just simply walk by, not with the pups around! So another photo opportunity presented itself and the pups performed as usual!

Once we left the complex I wanted to make a quick side trip to Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) which was just across the street. When I was there back in June (as a birthday gift from my parents!) I didn't get a picture in front of the famous Home Run Apple. Debbie and Mina came along as well and we had fun taking some pictures!
Now we are home and resting. Bright immediately passed out and doesn't seem like she wants to do much right now! So I am curled up on the couch and writing this while watching the first football game of the season. Can it get any better than this?

Hope you all enjoy the pictures. It was a super fun day and I hope we can repeat the experience next year!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Disney Pictures

Ok so I think that my blogger account might actually want to be nice to me today and allow me to upload some fun pictures from Disney. Have a fun day today everyone and enjoy the pictures!

At the entrance to the Magic Kingdom!

Bright and Orson. Love how the guy behind them is smiling for the picture too!

We met Princess Aurora! She's my favorite Disney Character. I think Bright liked her too!

Hats anyone?

Hanging out under the big Mickey Sorcerer Hat in the middle of Disney's Hollywood Studios! (It will forever be MGM Studios to me!)
Bright's first Monorail ride!

Grabbed a bus from the Transportation & Ticket Center headed to the Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom! Bright really liked the ducks here....

LegoLand in Downtown Disney. She thought the dogs were real!

Perfect spot for the Electric Light Parade and fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.

Is it starting yet??

Disney was sooo much fun and these pictures aren't even a full representation of what we did. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Overdue.....Again

Sorry sorry sorry!! I'm just awful at keeping up with this blog over the past few months. I really am sorry that I haven't been around to post. There really isn't any good excuse except that I have been keeping extremely busy.

Bright had a blast at Disney World and didn't want to leave to come home! We did an awful lot of stuff and we thank Team Orson for inviting us along for the trip! Without them we would not have thought to go down to Disney World and would have missed out on a great time! Thanks guys!

The next few weeks will be jam packed full of CCI events and I will be on the move yet again. This Thursday we are headed to the US Open out on Long Island for wheelchair tennis! CCI NER has put together an opportunity for CCI volunteers, PRS, and staff to go to the US Open and enjoy some great tennis! This should be so cool and I know that Bright is going to have a lot of fun. I will be taking a lot of pictures and I hope to get a post up about that too.

Then this coming weekend we have the start of the street fairs! On Saturday we will be in Cranbury for "Cranbury Day" and then on Sunday we will be at the Red Bank Street Fair. Lots to do! If you're in the area, stop on by!

Until then...happy blogging!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Disney: Day 1 & 2

Hey everyone!

Well we made it safely down to Florida without too much excitement. Bright travels so well in the car and never seems to mind being cooped up for so long. Awesome! On our ride down to Orlando, we decided to take a small detour and visit the Southeast Regional Center of CCI. It's located just northwest of Orlando and (somewhat) along the way to our hotel.

We stopped there and walked inside. I felt bad just walking in without letting them know we were coming through. Normally the campus gives tours on Tuesday afternoons and we were definitely not there on a Tuesday! But we ended up running into the Puppy Program Manager of SE and he said that he would give us a quick tour of the campus. Yay!

The campus is beautiful! It's fun to visit all the regional centers and see how each on differs from another. In SW they don't have nearly as much property as some other regions, but they can spend a lot of time outside training, so the space works well for them. SE looks like a network of different buildings that all seem to meet in the center of campus where there is an amazing gazebo type area. Everything is spacious and it was great to see how things were done there! We got to watch a bit of a training session going on in one of the training rooms (there was a one-way mirror there!) and saw the dogs getting lunch. There is also a great play yard in the back which has a bunch of agility equipment that was made by a local boy scout troop.
We finally made it to the hotel and checked in, then it was time to get something to eat! Thankfully there was a Cracker Barrel nearby. YUM! Bright was tired and so just stretched out by the table and promptly fell asleep.

We then went and met up with Team Orson and it was off to the parks! Orson had done some talking with the people at Saratoga Springs and he gave Bright a button that reads: 1st Visit. We decided to hit the Magic Kingdom first and hopped on the bus. Yay! Bright's first bus ride! She did so well!

We headed straight for Space Mountain since that's Kimmi's favorite ride. Some of us didn't want to ride, so Orson and Bright went to hang out with them while the rest of us went flying through Space! Seemed like they had a fun time and were getting a lot of attention because they were wearing their booties!

Since I knew that I would be bringing Bright to Disney, I knew that she had to get used to wearing the booties. I started putting them on her a few weeks ago and she took to them so quickly! She does the funny walking for a few steps and then just settles into her normal walk and we are fine.

Afterwards we headed over to the Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor. She slept through that....for the most part. I think she got a bit bored and wanted to see what I was up to, so she bothered me for a bit.

I will say this though, she LOVED the Haunted Mansion! No, she didn't go on the ride, but she loved seeing all the stuff that is along the line. She was looking everywhere because she didn't want to miss anything! She was not a big fan of Pirates of the Caribbean though. I guess the drinking and singing was getting to her a bit and she just wanted out of there!

For all the rides we did a puppy/people swap. Some would ride while others would hold the dogs, then we would swap places and the people that held the dogs before got to go on the ride. It seems to work and keeps the dogs happy....and the people too!

We then decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel. It had been a long day.

Day 2: Up and out the door by 8:30ish....yikes! Today we decided to stay in Disney's Hollywood Studios. We headed over to the Tower of Terror and the Rockin' Roller Coaster. The pups stayed behind again and the rest of us had some fun! We then decided that it would be fun to go see the Indiana Jones stunt show. Bright slept through most of the show, but was woken up when they blew something up. She was definitely awake after that! She then had to do a "Lap" so that she could watch the show for a little bit. I have one curious pup!

Then it was time for lunch, then back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation. With the weather so hot, it works well for us to head back to the hotel for a few hours during the hottest part of the day. This lets the dogs (and people) relax and stay out of the sun. Works out well for all of us! The dogs were wiped out at this point and they both just slept. There was a bit of playing, but it was kept to a minimum.

Then it was back to Hollywood Studios again for our dinner reservations at the 50s Prime Time Cafe. When we arrived we realized that the pavement was pretty hot and so the booties went on their paws again!

The people at the restaurant loved the dogs! Again, Bright and Orson just went promptly to sleep and didn't really move much during the meal. After that we headed out to burn some time before we got into line for "Fantasmic". There was a "dance party" going on in the middle of the park and a bunch of the characters were showing up to dance. Apparently Pluto snuck up behind Bright and freaked her out! I wasn't there, but my mom told me that she was quite spooked. I would be too!

I plan on introducing her to a lot more of the costumed characters so that she can become used to them. Should be a fun thing to do!

The line for Fantasmic was incredibly long and there was no way that we were going to be able to get into the theater if we got online at 9:30 for the 10:30 show. Bummer! But it will be playing again on Sunday, so we are going to try and make one of the shows that night.

Now we are back in the hotel. Bright went right into her kennel and passed out again. This dog is definitely tired!

Pictures will be added soon, I just really need to get some sleep. Night everyone!