CBS 6 Gives


A helping hand for Canine Companions for Independence

Posted at 10:02 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 10:03:14-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a national non-profit that provides assistance dogs to children and adults, including veterans, for a number of different disabilities.

Aleeta Lehtinen is the Old Dominion chapter president of CCI, and she is also what’s known as a “puppy-raiser.”

Various volunteers take on the Lab-Golden mix dogs as puppies and get guidance to train them to respond to a number of basic commands.

When the dogs are typically about 14-16 months old, they head to New York and a specialized training center where they learn to be various assistance animals, including hearing or seeing-eye dogs, or recently, companion dogs that can help veterans with PTSD.

Last week we surprised Aleeta and Bruce Hamon, a Vietnam War veteran from Ashland who now has Swain to help him with his PTSD, by donating several (very heavy!) bags of dog food and a gift card to PetSmart, to help the organization and its puppy trainers.

If you would like to help, just go to and you’ll find much more information about this wonderful group, from how to donate food or money, to becoming a puppy trainer.

As Bruce said, “It’s hard to put into words how much Swain has helped me navigate my life, from waking me during recurring nightmares to making me feel safe in crowded places."

The CBS 6 Month of Giving is made possible by Virginia Credit Union.