It’s Clear that Pets Make Us Smile

Andi, Service Dog, CPL

Charlie Cissel’s face lights up with an infectious smile as Andi, his home companion dog, affectionately “kisses” his cheek. This interaction delightfully expresses the friendship Charlie and Andi share.

Charlie, a triplet, celebrated his 16th birthday and finished his freshman year at Unionville High School in June. He is on the autism spectrum and also has a medical diagnosis of Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, a genetic lung disease.

Andi was trained and certified as a home companion dog by Canine Partners for Life (CPL), a nonprofit organization based in Cochranville. Founded in 1989, CPL’s goal is to increase the independence and quality of life of individuals with physical, developmental and cognitive disabilities by providing and sustaining professionally trained service and companion dogs. Companion dogs complete two years of training to support one individual in a home setting.

Shari heard of CPL about 10 years ago from a volunteer who was serving as a puppy home.

“Andi’s match to Charlie has been life-changing. Charlie never slept through the night prior to Andi entering his life. Andi rests her head next to Charlie’s in bed on the pillow. This provides a calming comfort that allows Charlie to sleep. She is a constant source of love and companionship.”

—Shari

On a typical day, Andi diligently follows Charlie around the house. She rests at his feet while he does his twice-daily medical treatments. Given Charlie’s almost constant need to move and touch, he often rubs his feet on Andi and pets her and rests on her while he’s doing homework, reading or playing on his iPad.

Knowing home companion dogs don’t have public access rights, Shari saw to it that Andi received her therapy dog certification so she could accompany Charlie to doctor visits and stay with him if he was in the hospital. Shari was thankful to have obtained the certification when Charlie was recently hospitalized for 2 1/2 weeks.

“Charlie wasn’t allowed to leave his hospital room due to his weak immune system,” Shari says. “Andi was his constant companion and helped to keep him calm when he was afraid to face some medical procedures.”