Fishers family gives back by raising service dogs

Nancee Wright

A family in Fishers dedicates hundreds of hours and dollars to training service dogs for people in need. The Wright family has been raising puppies for more than six years.

Zeller is one of 58 service dogs working in Indiana to help the elderly and disabled through a program called Canine Companions for Independence. Zeller brightens lives at St. Vincent New Hope on the northwest side each week.

Service dogs like Zeller get their start in life from volunteers like the Wrights.

Right now, there are 20 Canine Companions for Independence puppy raisers in Indiana. Hannah Wright is one of them. She is a sixth grader, and Jenna is the second service dog she has raised for CCI.

"She's at the stage where we are figuring out her personality, see if she is scared of things or if she doesn't like people," said Hannah.

The national non-profit organization provides highly trained assistance dogs for individuals with disabilities of all levels.

Nancee Wright says the experience has been a positive one for her family.

"We've asked them to be responsible, to learn a little bit about the organization," she said.

All five of her children have raised companion dogs for CCI.

"The stories of independence keep driving the puppy raisers, all of us. We just like to hear what they can do and the independence, because we take that for granted sometimes," said Nancee.

It's a big responsibility in terms of time and financing. Volunteers pay for all the costs for the dog for the first 16 months like food and medical needs. They also commit to three levels of training classes, and it's not always easy.

Zooloo was the first puppy Hannah trained. He's now six and lives with the Wright family in Fishers. He didn't make it as a companion dog. He was always a little too friendly and obsessed with balls.

That's not unusual. Only 35 percent of the dogs pass advanced training. And how hard is it for an eleven-year-old to part with her puppy after 16 months?

"I would love to keep them and have them but they are going to go to someone else," said Hannah. "The stories from the graduates and the dogs, they keep me motivated."

The Wright's next puppy arrives in just weeks.

Families who qualify for a canine companion once they've passed training get the dogs free of charge.

Learn how to volunteer