How Pico the Dog Changed Ryan Honick’s Life
Ryan Honick won’t hesitate to tell anyone who asks how wonderful life has become thanks to his service dog, Pico. “Everywhere I go, I go with my best friend,” he says.
Before Pico, Ryan, who has cerebral palsy, had some difficulty getting around. “The things most people take for granted, like picking up something that has fallen, can be challenging at times,” he says.
Ryan had a dog growing up, but his relationship with Pico is different. “I spend every waking second next to him, and we work as a team,” he says. “I initially began training in February of this year, and it’s amazing at how quickly you bond with a dog like this.”
Ryan got Pico from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. This is done at no cost to the recipient, thanks to the generosity of CCI’s donors, which is quite substantial since it costs in excess of $45,000 to raise and train each dog.
The dogs start their training at six months, and learn more than 50 commands. During that time, CCI’s instructors have a chance to give a detailed evaluation of each dog, and based on the dogs different strengths, a person with disabilities who is on CCI’s waiting list is invited to attend two weeks of Team Training at their regional headquarters. It is there that they are matched with an assistance dog. “Matching me with Pico, they just nailed it,” says Ryan. “During the first three to four days of training, we work on a rotation basis with a number of dogs. I found Pico to be very affectionate.”
After a few days of working directly with different dogs, the trainers asked the participants to write down the names of the dogs they felt a strong bond with. Pico was the first name on Ryan’s list. “They have a knack for matching dogs with people,” says Ryan.
Pico provides more than just assistance for Ryan. “He is the world’s greatest conversation piece,” Ryan explains. “I’ve met many wonderful people thanks to Pico.”
When they are out together, Pico wears his “working” vest to let the public know that he is a working dog. Most people are quite welcoming. Sometimes there are difficulties. Every once in a while, cabs in his D.C. neighborhood will pass him by because they don’t want a dog—even a service dog—in their cars. Most of the time, however, people welcome Pico and want to pet him.
“People also think that because I have a dog, I’m blind or that I am paralyzed from the waist down because I use a wheelchair,” he says. His vision is fine, and he is not paralyzed. He is fairly mobile. If a situation calls for it, he can get out of his chair.
He recently finished up a fellowship at Hill & Knowlton working in the public relations and communications department. He freelances as a publicist, and is looking for a full time job. You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his blog.
For information about CCI, you can visit their website. Currently, there is about a year and a half wait for those qualifying for service dogs.
~ Via Michele C. Hollow for Parade