Volunteer from Exeter will march in inauguration parade with her dog
EXETER - Josie Greenston and her four-legged friend, Manny, will march in a parade today. It's not just any parade; if you follow the presidential inaugural proceedings, you could see the Exeter 12-year-old on TV.
Greenston was chosen to participate in President Barack Obama's inaugural parade in Washington as a puppy-raiser with Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities.
"The fact that I get to walk Manny for 20 blocks and show the world that he is the best dog ever and will make an amazing companion to someone is so exciting. This could be a once in a lifetime chance," said Josie, a middle school student at Heronfield Academy in Hampton Falls who left for the nation's capital on Sunday with her mother, Holly.
Josie, who is Jewish, chose to raise a service dog as her bat mitzvah project.
She said she loves animals and wanted her project to "give back for a long time." She was also inspired by her grandmother, who suffered a stroke at age 27 and was paralyzed for most of her life.
"I think about how much Manny could have helped my Nana with basic life stuff," she said.
Josie applied to CCI to raise a service dog, and after lots of paperwork and phone interviews, was accepted and picked up Manny, a lab and golden retriever cross, at the agency's headquarters in Medford, N.Y. last June. He's now 9 months old.
CCI was one of 43 organizations chosen to march in the inaugural from over 2,800 applicants.
Some 134 CCI assistance dog teams, puppy-raising families, volunteers and supporters will march, along with 57 assistance dogs and dogs-in-training.
The agency's mission fit with the President's focus on the importance of service and giving back to communities during the inauguration.
Josie was picked through a lottery by the organization. When she heard that a lottery would be held for all of CCI's volunteers interested in walking in the parade, Josie quickly entered her name.
Josie was allowed two spots in the parade, so she'll be joined by Lisa Richard, a licensed dog trainer who helps her with Manny.
During the days when Josie is at school and her parents are at work, Richard comes to her house to walk Manny and spend time with him.
"She is a really big help to me with teaching me how to train Manny and listening to me when I am frustrated with certain behaviors. So, I wanted her to walk with me and Manny," Josie said.
The dogs from CCI are provided to individuals at no cost through the generosity of donors and volunteers like the Greenston family.
Josie was shown some basic training skills and is required to teach him 32 commands.
"I love being connected to CCI. They are so helpful and encouraging. Whenever I have a question or need guidance I know that they will help me," said Josie, who must send monthly progress reports to the organization.
Manny will graduate from his time with Josie on Nov. 8, at which point he'll return to CCI for six months of intensive training before being matched with a person in need of a service dog.
Josie said she'll be sad when Manny leaves, but knows that he'll bring his new owner "as much joy as he is bringing me."
Until then, Josie plans to enjoy her time with him.
She's looking forward to the parade experience and said she's honored to be part of CCI.
"I guess I feel I am representing a lot of things, being Jewish, CCI, New Hampshire, my school Heronfield Academy, and my family because they help a lot with Manny, too," she said.