By Jorae DuPont -
Jimi is a Lab cross with a side of couch potato. He loves to lie around the house, snoozing or occasionally chasing a ball. But to Ben, who’s recovering from a stroke, Jimi is a furry hero complete with superpowers and a cape. When Ben needs him, Jimi drops the laid-back persona like a hot potato to jump into action.
Ben’s life looks a lot different now “post-stroke.” His mobility has changed. He has no function in his right arm and hand. He tires easily. But none of that bothers Jimi in the least. In February, he snuggled into Ben’s life and soon found his way into Ben’s heart, as well.
Ben works as a gas station cashier. After a four- or five-hour shift, he feels exhausted. That’s when Jimi helps the most. Oftentimes it’s small tasks that make a difference. “He’s awesome,” Ben says. “He knows how to do everything. Jimi opens and closes doors, brings me the laundry, picks up after me, and even picks up after himself.”
Plus, Ben says Jimi is something of a homebody. That’s a perfect fit for Ben: “When I get tired and take naps during the day, he’s happy to curl up and sleep with me.”
Ben occasionally struggles with his speech. Luckily, one of Jimi’s superpowers is listening. “Whenever I ask him to do something, Jimi waits to make sure I’m finished talking,” Ben says. “He somehow understands that it takes me a little longer to do certain things. He’s so patient.”
When Ben took him home, Jimi had to adjust to a new environment. The tools were different from those in his training setting. Jimi had to get used to a different kind of laundry basket, for example, and a different basket for his own toys. “And sometimes,” Ben says, “I forget the right word to use—the training commands I learned while practicing with Jimi—so I’ll say a different word. He still seems to know what I need.” Together, they’ve developed their own language, one that works just fine between them.
Ben learned about Can Do Canines online after a neighbor talked with him about assistance dogs. Since meeting Jimi, Ben’s discovered much more. While he can walk alone, Ben said he much prefers Jimi’s company. “He helps me get exercise, and when he needs exercise, Jimi loves to play fetch.” This summer, Ben hopes to have a fence installed so Jimi can spend more time chasing balls outside.
“The best part is that I’m not alone anymore,” Ben said. “Before, when my sons went to school, I used to feel a little lonely. Now it’s me and Jimi. He’s always right here, next to me.”
Jimi has the unique distinction of being the first dog co-raised by two Can Do Canines volunteers by spending every other month for more than two years with each family. One of those volunteers, Tiffany, believes that a benefit of the arrangement was that “he transitioned very well into new homes.”
Ben said he’s thankful for the volunteers who helped raise and train Jimi to make him such a well-rounded dog. “But Jimi is home now. He’s not going anywhere. Jimi is home for good.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Whelping Home — Dana & Pete Kittok
Puppy Raisers — The Tiffany Hendrickson Family, Dana and Pete Kittok