by JENNIFER FRAKES | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Ann Deakers first learned about Canine Companions for Independence while teaching at St. James Academy in Solana Beach, and her life hasn’t been the same since. Canine Companions for Independence provides, at no charge, service dogs for adults and children with any disability other than blindness. “A parent of one of my students was raising a puppy [for the organization]. I thought it would be fun to take a dog to work every day. My first graders were always ready and willing to help train the puppy,” revealed Ann. However, as she and her students found out, having a puppy in a busy classroom had many challenges, and as she put it, the class mantra quickly became “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Over the years, Ann has raised five puppies for Canine Companions for Independence. “After I retired from teaching in 2007, I decided to keep my last pup and certify her for therapy. She’s a sweet golden retriever named America,” said Ann. America and Ann pay weekly visits to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital with several other therapy dogs through the organization Love on a Leash.

Ann and America also visit Conway Elementary School in Escondido on a weekly basis. “Children in a fourth grade class of second language learners read to America. Practicing reading to dogs, who are totally nonjudgmental, has proven to increase fluency,” explained Ann. When America visits the Conway students she wears her red cape from another organization with which Ann has become involved—Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Just when Ann thought she was finished training puppies, she encountered Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs while shopping at Flower Hill Mall. “After further research, I decided to join their group and am currently raising a five-month-old golden doodle named Indy. The organization trains service dogs for children with autism. They recently branched out to Wounded Warriors and grant dogs to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” related Ann. She will keep Indy until he begins his working career at about two years of age.

Ann and Rod, her husband of 42 years, have lived in Carmel Valley for 25 years and are amazed at the growth that has taken place in the region. When Ann isn’t “going to the dogs,” she enjoys reading, knitting, crafting and spending time with their three children and two grandchildren.