Centereach trainers give assistance dog good home

Centereach trainers give assistance dog good home

Michael St. Jeanos is all smiles with his new Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog Jiminy II and his mother Laurie. Photo from Canine Companions for Independence

Puppy raisers in Centereach are sad to see Jiminy II go, but glad to see he’ll be going to a good home upstate.

Heidi and Andrew Cavagnaro are four-time Canine Companions for Independence volunteers, currently raising puppies Hardisty and Paolo II. Canine Companions for Independence — a national nonprofit organization providing trained assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities — matched Jiminy with Niskayuna resident Michael St. Jeanos, who is receiving his second assistance dog from Canine Companions.

Michael was matched with Jiminy, a two-year-old black labrador retriever who has been trained to respond to over 40 advanced commands.  Jiminy can turn light switches on and off, open and close doors and retrieve dropped objects. However, one of his most important jobs will be to provide constant companionship for Michael, after his first assistance dog, Anton, passed away last year after 10 years of loving service.

“Jiminy is a very special dog and we hope to have many wonderful years with him.”

—Laurie St. Jeanos

The Cavagnaro family raised Jiminy from an eight-week-old puppy, and said goodbye to him after a year and a half of training.  Heidi and Andrew worked to teach the dog basic commands, and all-important socialization skills. When he was old enough to begin advanced training, Jiminy was returned to the Canine Companions Northeast Training Center in Medford, where he worked for six months with the organization’s nationally renowned instructors, learning the over 40 commands.                  

Michael and Jiminy were matched after completing Canine Companion’s recent Team Training Class, an intense, two-week course held at the organization’s training center — one of six such centers nationwide. The Northeast Training Center serves a 13-state area from Maine to Virginia.

Each student who attends Team Training – held at each center four times a year – is paired with a fully-trained, working assistance dog, like Jiminy, and is taught to work with his/her canine companion. The training course consists of daily lectures, exams, practice and public outings.

Michael and Jiminy are now settling into a routine back home.

“Jiminy is a very special dog and we hope to have many wonderful years with him,” Michael’s mother Laurie said. “We can’t thank Heidi and Andrew Cavagnaro enough.”

Canine Companions for Independence is the largest nonprofit provider of trained assistance dogs, with training centers in New York, Florida, Ohio, Texas and California. The group has placed over 5,000 assistance dogs.  There is no charge for the dog, its training and on-going follow-up services.  For more information, visit or call 1-800-572-BARK (2275).