Client Stories

Joe and Radar



My son James suffers from a rare condition called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) which means his muscles, Joints, and ligament are turning to bone progressively and there is no cure or treatment to stop it.  Progressively losing movement of his body has made simply daily activities difficult and at times impossible for him which can make him very frustrated.  Thor has filled the gap where James is losing independence by being so eager to help James get what he needs and in return James gets Thor what he needs.

Watching the bond grow between my son James and Thor has been a very delightful experience.    It is obviously the beginning of a beautiful friendship and one he will cherish for the rest of his life.  The confidence in my son’s voice and actions is coming back again.  My son is beaming with pride as he takes care of Thor; he knows how important a job it is.  It is so nice to see the two of them together inside the house and outside, they are so happy together.  During the training camp there were moments when I had to hold back tears of joy when I saw how Thor had made my son smile and forget about his pain.  From a child that wasn’t so eager to get up and run around due to his discomfort and pain, Thor had triggered him to happily participate in training camp!  Having Thor in James daily life had all of a sudden diminished his need for pain medication drastically… its amazing!



My name is Autumn Williams and my life partner is Vasco. I have social anxiety disorder and depression. I needed to be accompanied by a friend anywhere I went. The thought of leaving the house would cause me to be physically ill and the depression made me lethargic. The simple task of going to the grocery store would send me into a full blown panic attack. Before Vasco I had to rely on my mother to take me shopping or to pay the bills because I was too afraid to go on my own. I needed to be accompanied by a friend anywhere I went. I often felt lonely and I rarely went outside. I was trapped inside my house and isolated.

Since partnering with Vasco I have become more independent. Vasco gives me physical and emotional support I need to overcome the anxiety. He is my best friend, he gives me confidence and makes me feel safe. He cheers me up when I am feeling down, and motivates me to do things with him like going to dog park or the beach. He has helped me overcome my fear of being alone in public. This year I am attending college with Vasco and I have also gone to a convention on my own.

I am grateful to COPE, the puppy raisers and the students that helped trained Vasco for giving me the opportunity to enjoy life again and be independent. With Vasco by my side I feel like I can accomplish anything.



Steven was born with cognitive, balance and mobility challenges.  He was confined to a wheelchair and the doctors told us that he would not walk independently during his lifetime. Gradually though, with physiotherapy, he walks with the assistance of a walker.

Then came Ruby, a beautiful Golden Retriever service dog from COPE. Together they have experienced the joys and trials of life for over five years now. Steven has a great affinity for animals and, somehow, he just knows their spirit and they understand his. Steven talks about Ruby at every encounter and is proud to introduce her wherever he goes. And Ruby is welcomed enthusiastically throughout our travels, especially where we are repeat guests. As we descend upon a favorite restaurant or our summer retreat at a hotel in Muskoka, the staff all know Ruby!

Ruby walks with Steven to ensure that he doesn’t go too fast or stumble. She opens the handicap doors which have buttons for her to push. She helps to pull off Steven’s coat or shirt. She gives him confidence and a reason to push himself to higher levels. To that end, we now see Steven able to travel short distances without any assistive device other than a leash and a bond between him and his dog, Ruby.

Recently, Ruby was re-certified as a service dog.  Their relationship goes well beyond that of a service dog to include her intellectual, social, and emotional attributes. It is a phenomenal mystery enshrined in the very existence of life that we all cherish each and every day.



Rocky loves to get his teeth brushed. He comes into the washroom every day when I am brushing my teeth, sits down, and smiles so we can brush his teeth. He goes everywhere with me; he is my service dog.

My name is Emily, and I am eight years old. My dog’s name is Rocky, and he came to me from an organization called COPE Service Dogs. Rocky was trained to help me with going up and down stairs, carrying things, getting up when I fall, and balancing. Having a service dog means there is always someone there to help me. He is a very friendly dog and enjoys being with me at school and in stores.

During the winter Rocky was especially helpful when there was deep snow that blocked the stairs I was trying to get down at my friend’s house. My mom sent Rocky to me. He ran through the snow and climbed up the snowy stairs. Then he sat down, so I could hang on to him to get down the stairs. He is a great helper.



Anne is a former university professor who has an acquired brain injury that she received as a result of a car accident in 2003. With the help of her rehab team and a lot of hard work, Anne was able to make some progress, but felt that a service dog would help her cope with some of the problems that arose from her injury, including issues of balance, fatigue, anxiety and getting lost.

She explains: “For a long time, I could not stand up and talk at the same time. My brain could not cope with both tasks and I would fall over. This still happens when I am overtired and I often lose my balance and have to catch a wall or person standing nearby. I had to learn to walk properly again. I still cannot walk far without my walker and I still tend to veer to the left and get off-balance. But I can walk. I had to learn to speak and listen carefully and to learn to try to cope with all the distractions in the environment that most people never notice. I had to learn to read and write again”.

Anne`s partnership with COPE service dog Avalon marked the beginning of a new phase of her life. One of Anne’s hopes when Avalon joined her was that people would notice she had a partner and might be more patient with her when she was lost, confused, and overwhelmed. When people are curious about what Avalon does for her, she says, “She’s a guide dog but I’m not blind or hearing impaired. She’s a memory dog. She helps me get about and get back home, among other things.” And the usual response is, “How wonderful! She’s giving you back some independence.” Finally, people are getting it.