‘Taking Home Your New Partner': 11 Pups Graduate Into Service Dogs at Vista Ceremony

Canine Companions for Independence trains its dogs from birth to 18 months old

Nearly a dozen service dogs graduated from school Friday and were placed with their new owners, which one family called a “huge blessing.”

The graduating class of 11 became official service dogs during a ceremony in Vista after a rigorous 18 months of training from the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence.

Rick Daynes and Robin Daynes were excited for their 6-year-old son, Eli Daynes, to bring home a new member of the family: Nikki.

“Right off the bat, there was immediate bonding,” Rick Daynes said. “He helps him transition from point a to point b, and it really engages Eli and helps him to grow and to do more than we thought he was going to do.”

Eli Daynes has Down syndrome and autism, his mother told NBC 7.

“Social interactions are hard for him, but Nikki’s going to facilitate that,” Robin Daynes said. “The sky’s the limit of what Nikki’s going to do for our family.”

Nikki can help Eli Daynes from retrieving toys and shoes to helping him become more independent as he grows up.

Daniel Guillou, who attended the ceremony Friday and has a service dog of his own, told NBC 7 even when the K-9s perform small tasks, it can go a long way.

“Not necessarily things I couldn’t do on my own, but help me save energy, so I have more energy at the end of the day,” Guillou said. “It’s hard to put it into words how incredible this kind of day is and taking home your new partner.”

Canine Companions for Independence trains its dogs from birth to 18 months old, teaching them about 40 commands by the time the pups find a family to care for.

“It’s going to change our life in so many ways, from helping us raise our son and the joy he brings to our family, and it’s a huge blessing,” Robin Daynes said.

Established in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence has served children, adults, and veterans at its six training centers across the nation.

Friday’s graduation ceremony was held at North Coast Church in Vista.

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