Winter Garden resident, Canine Companions for Independence puppy make magic | West Orange Times & Observer

Just as Mickey Mouse and Pluto are a dynamic duo, so are Robin Walker and her canine companion for Independence, Walt.

You might even see them at Walt Disney World Resort. Walker is the manager of Disney’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch – and it’s also a great training ground for the theme park’s founder.

Walker, a Winter Garden resident and avid animal lover, became a puppy breeder for CCI last year. CCI provides service dogs to people with disabilities free of charge, and volunteer puppy breeders like Walker enable the organization to offer hope and independence to thousands across the country.


Through years of working with horses and foster dogs, Walker already had a lot of experience with animals. When she first heard about CCI and its puppy rearing program years ago, she was intrigued. But she never really thought she could do it.

“I just wasn’t sure what the parameters were,” said Walker. “It was just one of those sky-blue ideas, and one day it’s like, ‘You know, I really need to go in and talk to them,’ because the passion grows – it never waned.”

Volunteer puppy breeders give the CCI puppies a safe home, take them to obedience classes, ensure a healthy diet, offer opportunities for socialization and give them lots of love. They also teach the puppy manners and 30 basic commands.

Finally, Walker couldn’t wait any longer. She decided to fill out an application to become a puppy educator. After completing an interview and learning more about the process, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

“I just look at this creature and think, ‘He’s amazing and I can be a part of it.’ I’m lucky enough to be able to do this. “- Robin Walker

“It just really sparked a passion for something I love to do, but also for a purpose,” she said. “By doing something I loved, I was able to change someone’s life and be with other people who do the same thing and have the same passion. The recipients of these dogs are grateful and there is just so much positive and positive behind it. “

Puppy breeders receive their puppies at 8 weeks of age and generally keep them until they are 18 months old and ready to enroll in the organization’s training program. Walt is Walker’s second CCI puppy; her first, Idris, was enrolled earlier this year.

“I am its chief administrator; I am everything to him, ”she said. “My responsibility is to make sure he’s happy, he’s healthy (and) he’s well-adjusted and well-educated.”

Walker always knew Walt was a special pup, and his arrival in Florida proved it. CCI pups were bred specifically for their purpose, and Walt was from a litter in Santa Rosa, California. Thanks to a volunteer pilot, he arrived in Kissimmee on a private jet.

“I tried to find this airport in the dark and I got out of there and there is no one there,” said Walker. “But then all of a sudden this plane starts to land and I have to admit that I have tears in my eyes – me and the other puppy breeder who was there. You see this little private jet arrive and it’s just amazing. You think, ‘Oh my god, my puppy is on that plane!’ … The pilot gets out, greets you and says: ‘Yes, we have valuable cargo for you!’ “


With Robin Walker, who is the manager of the Tri-Circle-D-Ranch at Walt Disney Walt Resort, her Canine Companions for Independence puppy, Walt, sometimes comes to work with her. (Courtesy of IHK)

At just 5 months old, Walt is already making dreams come true. He often goes to work with Walker at the Tri-Circle D ranch and wears a special yellow cloak when he has his socialization and educational experiences.

Volunteer puppy breeders are expected to move the puppies to many locations to provide opportunities for socialization and exposure and habituation to new sights, sounds, and environments.

“We are very grateful to the companies that make this possible for our puppy breeders,” said Martha Johnson, CCI’s PR and Marketing Coordinator. “It’s also just a great social opportunity to be exposed to all these different sounds and people and things. … It is really helpful that (they) have this support. “

Walker said Walt gets to know the cast and guests and brings a smile to everyone he meets. He even met some of the horses on the ranch. In addition to helping with Walt’s own education, Walker says she loves that his presence educates those around him.

“It really helps them educate them about when guests come with disabilities and what that means, and feel comfortable around someone with a disability and a dog,” said Walker. “You can approach them, ask questions, and talk to them without feeling disconnected or anxious. I think he really helped with the education for that. “

And while you might think that Walker was paired with Walt because of the Disney connection, it was actually pure coincidence. The CCI breeding program assigns each puppy litter a letter that progresses alphabetically from A to Z. Each puppy is given a name that begins with the corresponding letter. Walt happens to come from the “W” litter and was named by his breeder / caretaker in honor of the amazement and excitement associated with this name.

Being a puppy breeder is not always easy. It takes a lot of time and dedication, and there are some tough goodbyes in the end. But goodbye is the goal, and that’s why Walker and so many others selflessly put their hearts in their pups and their destiny.

“You are not in for yourself,” said Walker. “Part of it is because you enjoy it, and it’s part of who you are and the people you want to be with. But you are there for the dogs and the people who get these dogs and who you will get to know.

“The goal is for them to be successful,” she said. “People always ask me, ‘Well, don’t you want him to fail? Don’t you want to keep it? ‘ It’s like, ‘No, I want him to be successful.’ … I just look at this creature and think, ‘He’s great and I’m allowed to be a part of it.’ I’m lucky enough to be able to do that. “

“Without puppy training, we couldn’t do our jobs,” added Johnson. “You are the crucial piece of the puzzle. Giving away (the pups) is difficult, but they understand the purpose. We are very grateful to Robin and the companies that support her work. “

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