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Canine Companions for Independence-Veterans Day Event
by Pamela Fitzpatrick

Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs is hosting a Veterans Day Event on November 8, 2018 at the Woodbury Country Club.

The event includes hors d’oeuvres and wine, and features the Suffolk County Police Officer’s Pipe Band, Presentation of Colors, and Canine Companions assistance dog demonstration.

The highlight of the evening will be the awards ceremony including the presentation of the Colonel E. David Woycik, Jr., Esq. (ret. USA) and Staff Sergeant Sam Cila (ret. USA) Outstanding Service Award. In order to honor those who served, the award is presented each year to deserving recipients who go above and beyond and provide continued service to the community.

Special Guests at this year’s event will include:

  • Capt. Michael W. Caputo
  • 1s t Lt. Peter Heuzey
  • Cpl. Marshall Sweetbaum
  • United State Marine Corp. Sgt. Danny Concannon

I sat down with Sayville resident Danny Concannon and his lovely fiancée Alaina for a brief chat about his service, current activities, and the award he is being honored with. Introduced to Canine Companions by his bother Jack, Danny’s ties with the organization evolved as a natural progression of a shared interest.  As a highly trained dog handler, Danny understands very well the vital services, both physical and emotional, that trained companion dogs provide.

Danny joined the US Marine Corps in June 2010 and served two tours of active duty. After completing military police school, he became a Marine Corps military working dog handler, reporting to the specialized search dog school at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

I learned that specialized search dogs, many of which are Labrador retrievers, are used for explosive detection, enabling the handler to work the dogs off-leash and at long distances, putting a greater gap between a threat. Danny was paired with his partner, Gretchen, a yellow lab mix. In May of 2012, the two were selected for deployment to Afghanistan.

After deployment, Danny returned home and became a  lead trainer with the 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, followed by another  deployment. Danny retired from active duty in November 2014 and is currently a police officer serving the community in Nassau County. Danny’s partner, search dog Gretchen then 10 years old, retired from the military when Danny.  Together, Danny and Gretchen saved many lives through their search work in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Danny believes that Gretchen’s long tenure of military service (a total of five combat deployments) was a testament to both her physical conditioning and her strong search skills.

Gretchen enjoyed her retirement and civilian life until she sadly passed in June 2018.  Danny and Alaina were glad to have been able to spend  time with their loving companion after her military career.  Although she was retired, Gretchen continued to exercise her search detection skills whenever she encountered a new environment.

Danny and Alaina have settled in West Sayville where they live with their rescued lab mix Coonagh (named after a town in Ireland).  They are busy planning their October 2019 wedding.

If you are interested in attending the Veterans Day event sponsored by Canine Companions for Independence, registration is required. There is no cost to attend this event, however all guests in attendance must register. Please visit the link below for more information.

About Canine Companions for Independence
Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

The assistance dogs they breed, raise and train aren’t just the ears, hands and legs of their human partners, they are also o goodwill ambassadors and often, their best friends. They open up new opportunities and new possibilities  and spread incredible joy. We unite people with dogs in a powerful program that leads to greater independence and confidence.

Visit for more information.








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