OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Proud graduates of an assistance dog program in San Diego County celebrated graduation Friday, and 11 proud pups are now officially teamed with their families.
"At the end of today’s ceremony you’ll see why because the people that walk out of here with one of these dogs just makes my heart smile all the more," Deb Ferraro, Dog Trainer.
The ceremony was hosted by the non-profit group Canine Companions for Independence, which provides expertly-trained assistance dogs to those with disabilities, completely free of charge. One of the families to benefit was the Pinzon family.
"His name is Roscoe," said Mateo.
Roscoe, the black Labrador is now Mateo's new best friend.
"Our son has son mental and physical disabilities," said Israel Pinzon.
Pinzon told Fox 5 many things make his son anxious, sometimes even doing the smallest day-to-day tasks. Roscoe will be key in helping Mateo with that transition.
"Slow down a little bit and have things be a little easier for him," said Israel.
For the past 18 months, Laura McSwain has been raising Roscoe.
"When they’re little, it’s actually pretty easy to teach them to sit, and down and all the basic things, so you can get them squared away," said McSwain.
Laura said starting with the basics to even the more difficult, Roscoe has always learned through play. Now it's this playful nature that will help Mateo through some of the more difficult areas of his disability.
"People who are often shunned now have somebody at their side that now draws people into them and even when they’re alone they have a companion giving them unconditional love," said McSwain.
Eleven canine/family teams were celebrated at the free event at the QLN Conference Center in Oceanside.
Dozens of volunteers were also honored -- they help raise the program's puppies for 18 months before returning them to Canine Companions for the next stage in their training.