Aleita Downer - Founder
"Do What You Love and the Rest Will Follow"
I can’t sing, my children BEGGED me not to play our electronic organ, I stink at sports, and I can barely draw a stick figure….but boy can I
train a dog!
Losing my high-paying computer job of ten years in 1989 was, I realize now, the best thing that ever happened to me. I hated the job so much I
cried my way to work every day, but it was the only job I was trained to do… and I was devastated. But, as the saying goes, there was "no
where to go but up" and being out of work allowed me to think about what I REALLY wanted to do.
When my son applied to CCI for a Service Dog for the Disabled…and was put on a five year wait list, I stumbled into the
answer. I was sure I could train a dog for him; one that could open his doors and turn on his lights and perform all the usual tasks.
I read books, I watched videos, I talked to people who were partnered with Service Dogs, and I did an apprenticeship with an obedience trainer.
I joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, close to its inception, and attended conferences (I was quite awed at meeting the big-name trainers
in the field). I stood in the back yard and trained my Golden Retriever, Summer.
Summer and Joel were eventually certified as a Service Dog Team by Canine Support Teams, and in recognition of my accomplishment CST offered me a
training apprenticeship. Later, I had the privilege of studying at the Assistance Dog Institute, with Bonnie Bergen, founder of CCI. I became CST’s
field advisor and Puppy Raiser Liaison for San Diego County. I began offering classes – first only to puppy raisers, Service and Therapy dogs. It
wasn’t long before I realized that the dog-and-user-friendly techniques used to socialize and train working dogs could be used for the benefit of
pet dogs as well… and, frankly, I needed money! So Cape-Able Canines was born.
It was an incredible stroke of luck that Dog Beach Dog Wash offered me an opportunity to train at their facility, for which I will be forever
grateful. Later, at the invitation of veterinarian Miguel Espinosa, I also trained at The Pet Hospital of La Mesa, and, in 2004, I finally found a
storefront to call my own, allowing me, with the help of some incredible staff, to add services like daycare and boarding.
I’m particularly proud of a few accomplishments:
Twenty-two apprentices have successfully graduated from my eighteen-month Training to Train apprentice program. Most (19 at last count) are
working in the industry now, including Jane Glickman, my replacement trainer.
It has been my privilege to offer dog-and-owner-friendly training to thousands. I sincerely believe that training has enriched the lives of
those dogs and owners.
Many of my original students have referred friends and family for training and returned with their subsequent dogs.
I have helped many people self-train their own dogs as service dogs, many of whom, like Joel, could not have waited for a dog from
And, I have empowered many others – especially women - to start their own pet related businesses.
PS My son Joel - who was also my dear friend - passed away in May of 2006 followed by Summer-Dog (age 16 ½) a few months later. I’m in the process
of retiring now to the Seattle area, but I leave with gratitude to all who have made it possible for me to "do what I loved" and to
Michelle and the staff (Jane, Barb, Rosie, Judy, Cindy, Kay) who will continue to provide state-of-the-art dog-and-people-friendly care and
training to dogs and their persons.