Anne Howarth Redlus '69 is now into her "second and third careers" after leaving teaching as a speech pathologist in public schools. She's currently serving as second vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs and as a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence.
"In spring 2002 I nominated CCI to be a principal project of the 300 women's clubs that belong to the NJSFWC," she tells us. "I made a deal with the head of the organization that if CCI became the project, I'd be a puppy raiser."
Well, it did become the primary two-year project of the clubs, and Anne did become a puppy raiser. The women's clubs raised $198,000 for CCI during the two years they concentrated on the organization as a primary focus.
Anne trained a black Labrador retriever, Ripley, from July 2002 to November 2003 before sending him for three months of intensive advanced training to become an assistance or companion dog. During that time she taught Ripley about 30 commands and brought him pretty much everywhere she went.
CCI dogs are intended as companions and aides to people with physical disabilities -- people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries. "They are so well trained," Anne says, "that they can actually help pull or push a wheelchair. They can bring the phone, pick up dropped items, do bank or store transactions, even take clothes out of the dryer. And they can act as an icebreaker, especially for children. People don't approach children in wheelchairs as often as they should. But the dog helps. Plus there's the unconditional love only a dog can give."
On the day Anne gave Ripley up, she picked up Geiger II, a yellow lab puppy that she'll have until he's about 21 months old. Three months after she began training Geiger, Ripley returned. He didn't cut it as a companion dog. "Only about 35 percent of the dogs actually make it to be companion dogs," she says. "They have to be unbelievably patient and calm. Ripley is a little energetic." Is she disappointed? "A little. I hope Geiger makes it as a companion dog. But Ripley is still a great pet."