Many people involved with Canine Partners for Life tell us that they first learned about CPL through a friend or family member who also participates in some way. They are donors and volunteers, know someone who volunteers or is a graduate, or are graduates themselves. That was how Janie Cramer first learned about CPL. She had a friend, Paula Brenn, whose daughter, Reina, was a volunteer dog walker during the summer. Paula shared her CPL story with her one day, about 11 years ago, and Janie was hooked!
After contacting CPL, Janie thought this place would be a great match for her family at a point in her life when she felt she could be doing more to help others. About 20 years ago, Janie suffered a back injury that caused spinal stenosis, which results in constant back and leg pain. All she wanted out of life was to continue to be involved in her daughters’ lives through their high school years. Fortunately, she says, “I have been so blessed to be able to continue to be a big part of their lives in college and now graduate school.” In addition, Janie’s husband, Jeff, suffered a massive heart attack in 2005, and survived. Relieved, Janie felt her family was so blessed and they needed to find a way to make others’ lives better.
They found a way to accomplish this at CPL. Being a Registered Nurse and family doctor for many years, working with disabled children, and being a family of dog lovers, the Cramer family fit right in at CPL.
Janie and her daughter, Steffi, started out as dog walkers and bathers, but she quickly involved her husband and other daughter, Katie, by volunteering to be a temporary puppy home for dogs who needed a break from kennel life. The family began hosting dogs seven days a week, which prepared them to raise their first CPL puppy, Dutchess. Janie’s daughters brought Dutchess to school events, involving the whole community in their puppy raising. Unfortunately, Dutchess was released from the program due to medical issues, but the Cramers are still providing a loving home for her.
In 2007, Janie was invited to join the Board of Directors at CPL and is now in her second term. She has chaired the Development and Governance Committee as well as the By-Laws Committee. She is responsible for recruiting new members and has served as a mentor to new members, a responsibility she enjoys very much. Janie has also designed a self-evaluation tool for Board members as well as the Executive Director. She has served as the Board Secretary in the past and is currently serving as the Vice President. She is thankful for her role on the Board, saying, “I feel privileged working with Darlene and our Board of Directors.”
Janie expresses, “CPL has changed our life in many ways. We all have learned some very valuable life lessons over the past 11 years. I have met so many wonderful friends and recipients through my work at CPL. They truly are family and their stories touch my heart.”
One of those meaningful stories is about a five-year-old girl and her home companion dog, Violet. Janie feels this experience best demonstrates CPL’s mission and reaffirms why she chose to join the CPL family.
“One black Labrador puppy we raised, named Violet, was placed as a home companion to a five- year-old girl who was in a wheelchair. Her legs and arms had lost all strength. Her parents came to CPL looking for a “friend” for their daughter. She tried to play with friends in the neighborhood but she could not keep up with them when they ran and played. Violet was not only her best friend, she was always there to show her love. But, when the other children in the neighborhood saw Violet, they wanted to play in this little girl’s yard, making it easier to become friends. There was still another surprise for this family. The little girl would often wake up throughout the night, crying because her bedsheets would cover her face and she could not take them off herself. Her parents would come into her room and fix the covers. Well, Violet fixed the problem by lying on top of the covers. They never covered her face again and the entire family is getting better sleep.”
Despite raising nine CPL puppies, being a devoted volunteer, a loyal donor, and an active leader of the Board, Janie still feels as if CPL has given her more than she has given us.
Janie believes that her family’s involvement with CPL has shaped their goals in life. Steffi is currently in medical school in Philadelphia and continues to support nonprofit organizations, including CPL. Katie is working as a nursing assistant at A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital, often working with disabled children. Her husband continues his dream job as a family doctor and has referred some potential service dog candidates to CPL. And Janie continues her work at CPL to better the lives of people with disabilities. She says, “We have all become very aware of how we can join together, raise a puppy, and give the gift of independence to others.”