service dogFor Edgar Jimenez, using a service dog is all about independence. “It’s right there in the name,” says Jimenez, 30, about Canine Companions for Independence, the organization that provides him with his four-legged staff.

Jimenez’s dog, Chase, does three things for him. First up is convenience. “I’m always dropping stuff out of my lap — my keys, cell phone, credit card — and he can pick it up and put it in my lap like nothing happened,” says the IT project manager for VISA. Second is personal safety, as muscular dystrophy makes raising his voice impossible. “So when I get stranded without my phone, he can bark, a deep loud bark, and a barking dog gets someone’s attention,” says Jimenez, who lives in Austin, Texas. “The third aspect for me, and these are in no particular order, is he’s a great companion to have. When we’re out and about, he helps bridge that social gap, as a lot of people are unsure how to approach people in wheelchairs.”

Chase is Jimenez’ second dog through CCI, as his first, Rowdy, retired after a nine-year career. How hard was it to give up a loved companion after such a long time? “It wasn’t too bad, the transition plan we put in place worked very well,” says Jimenez. “CCI tells you retirement is at your discretion, you know your dog best, and I identified the right time to retire him.” Rowdy retired in style, as Jimenez gave the dog to his dad, who owns a few acres. “He has some land to run around on and a swimming pool. It’s nice because I see him about once a week or so.”

Service dogs aren’t for everyone, says Jimenez. “It’s a lot of work. As much as is put into the dog by CCI to train him, you have to keep up that training.” But if you think it’s for you, find Canine Companions for Independence at, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube.