By Mike Branch -
Jeff describes his Mobility Assist Dog, Wendy, as “a diva with a goofy side.” She also likes attention, is eager to please, and wants to work.
Jeff suffers from painful back problems, making it difficult to bend down and get up again without being in pain. He started experiencing back problems in his 30s after he fell on the ice. Arthritis has weakened his grip, and the pain from his back injury makes it difficult to pick things up off the ground.
The pain has made life harder as he gets older. At age 51, even picking up small items can be a challenge. “The worst part,” Jeff says, “is just bending over and getting up again.”
Prior to Wendy, “it was tough.” In addition to the physical pain, Jeff would experience periods of depression and anxiety, making it difficult for him to get out and enjoy everyday life.
Wendy changed that.
She helps Jeff pick up dropped items, retrieves the phone for him, and tugs on doors to open and close them. She saves him from discomfort and the risk of injury. Upon hearing the “clean-up” command, Wendy even picks up her toys and puts them away.
With Wendy at his side, Jeff spends more time with his Dad and can do more things for himself. When he’s not working part-time at HyVee in Waseca, Jeff takes Wendy for morning walks if his back feels okay. “She gives me something to look forward to and keeps me on track. … She’s a service animal, but she’s my buddy as well. She helps me in a lot of ways, not just the physical.”
After researching other organizations Jeff and his Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services worker found Can Do Canines. He was looking for an organization that would help him transition to working with an assistance dog. Can Do Canines prepared him for what to expect and helped him bond with Wendy even before he brought her home. Working with Can Do Canines made it easier for Jeff and Wendy to understand one another and to work as a team.
Jeff would like to thank everyone at Can Do Canines, “even the people I haven’t met” for making it possible to receive an assistance animal. “Everyone is important. Without them I wouldn’t have Wendy.”
Prior to being paired with Wendy, Jeff worried about what people would think, but that didn’t last long. Jeff says Wendy melts you with her look. “It’s her eyes. They soften you.”
“After all,” he adds, “she is a yellow Lab.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — Jackson Correctional Institution
Great Start Home — Katie Cormier Family
Whelping Home — The Nervick Family
Special Thanks — Linda and Dean Wedul, Casey and Ryan O’Connell, Barb Verhage
Name-A-Puppy Donor — John Van Hook