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Oklahoma woman finds independence through service dogs

A fundraiser at the Oklahoma City Boathouse District raised money for the Canine Companions of Independence, a national nonprofit organization that breeds, raises and trains assistance dogs.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 13, 2013

Dawn Ramsey remembers when Gittinger first spotted her.

Ramsey, of Shawnee, was among several people who were in a training facility for assistance dogs.

Over a two-week period, everyone was supposed to work with different dogs to determine which people and dogs worked well together.

During training, Ramsey could be on the other end of the room and say, “Sit” to the dog she was working with, and Gittinger would sit from across the room.

“He didn't pay any attention to anybody else,” Ramsey said. “He watched me constantly, and it was that way throughout his working life.”

Gittinger was Ramsey's first dog through the Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit organization that breeds, raises and trains assistance dogs.

On Saturday, Ramsey organized a fundraiser at the Oklahoma City Boathouse District to raise money for the organization that has given her so much.

“They gave me my freedom and my independence,” Ramsey said. “I was becoming housebound. I didn't want to go any place ... I was very fearful of not being able to hear and being in a wheelchair, of being a victim, being a target of a crime. And I couldn't make myself go out.”

But after Ramsey took Gittinger home in 1991, that fear quickly evaporated. She traveled from California to Pennsylvania without worry. She had a new best friend to accompany her.

All Canine Companions' dogs and services are provided free of charge. The organization trains a few types of assistance dogs, including service dogs, hearing dogs, facility dogs and skilled companion dogs. The application process is available at

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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