The Avenue Viera is going to the dogs on Saturday, September 3, when the shopping complex hosts Run 4 Paws, a two-mile run/walk to benefit Canine Companions for Independence.

Since 1975, the nonprofit has placed more than 7,200 expertly trained service dogs with children, adults and veterans with disabilities, many of them, like Diana Adams.

The West Melbourne resident relies on Canine Companions service dog Opus to help her through the day. A veteran of 14 surgeries, Adams tries to walk as much as she can, but tires easily and uses a wheelchair often, particularly at home. Opus is always at the ready for her.

“Having Opus to get things off the floor, pull the laundry basket from one room to another and even get the fridge door open helps me to be independent,” Adams said.

Opus is indeed doing what he was bred and trained to do: serve individuals with disabilities.

“Our dogs are trained to perform practical tasks that enhance independence and reduce reliance on others,” said Martha Johnson, the public relations and marketing coordinator for Canine Companions.

Before they return to the Canine Companions campus in Orlando for the rigorous training they will need, the pups live with volunteer puppy raisers that give their time, home and hearts to the pups during those critical first 18 months of life. James and Cheryl Gregory of Melbourne have raised nine Canine Companions puppies.

“It is incredibly fulfilling to see a puppy we have raised go on to serve an adult, child or veteran with a disability and to know that they are making a lasting impact,” James Gregory said.

Because dogs are provided free of charge, fundraisers such as the Run 4 Paws are necessary. More than 400 people are currently waiting for the help of a Canine Companions dog.

Humans and dogs alike are invited to participate in Run 4 Paws. Run, jog or walk the two-mile course, but for added fun, dress yourself and your trusty canine sidekick in costume to snag great prizes in the costume competition.

The event begins at 7:30 a.m. at The Avenue Viera at 2261 Town Center Ave. Registration is $25 for adults and $20 for children up to 12 years old.

To register, visit run4pawscc. SL