Isaiah Kramer & Mobility Assist Dog Leo
Cheerful, animated, and vibrant—eleven-year-old Isaiah Kramer of Savage, Minn. is not someone you would ever believe struggles with having enough energy. But Isaiah has muscular dystrophy. Together Isaiah, his parents and two siblings work as a team to manage the difficulties his diagnosis poses.
Muscular dystrophy is a progressive, musculoskeletal disease that weakens skeletal muscle and causes balance issues, limited energy and the inevitable loss of mobility in the legs and arms. Isaiah was diagnosed at birth and continues to experience decreased energy, balance and mobility in a variety of everyday situations.
In his own words, Isaiah describes his limitations by saying, “I can’t walk around much. I have trouble lifting heavy things and bending over.” But that doesn’t hinder Isaiah from doing the things that he loves—like spending time outdoors, going to church and playing Frisbee.
Isaiah receives day-to-day help from his family and personal care attendants and uses a power wheelchair outside of the home. Isaiah’s mother, Christina, had considered an assistance dog for her son for a while.
“I’ve been thinking about it for years,” she says. So as a gift for Isaiah’s tenth birthday, they sent in an application to Can Do Canines.
Before long Isaiah’s birthday present arrived in the form of a two-year-old black Labrador retriever named Leo. Leo is a Mobility Assist Dog trained to assist Isaiah with a variety of tasks. He picks up and retrieves dropped items, opens the refrigerator and drawers. When the two are ready to go out in public, Leo hops right next to Isaiah’s wheelchair to get leashed up. Once outside, he opens automatic doors and trots alongside Isaiah—ready to assist in any way.
Leo has acclimated to the Kramer family well, although Isaiah admits that their cat, Chevy, is having a difficult time accepting him. “Leo just wants to play with Chevy,” he explains. But Chevy is just not that interested.
When asked how Isaiah’s life has changed since Leo came along, Christina says, “Isaiah doesn’t have to work so hard to do things like opening the refrigerator or leaning down to open that bottom drawer.” She continues, “I have also seen Isaiah rise to the occasion and take on new responsibilities with Leo without even being asked.”
But the greatest part of having Leo, she says, has not been the extra help he gives her son or even how Isaiah has matured since Leo has joined their family.
“The greatest part is their connection and seeing how much Leo loves Isaiah and Isaiah loves Leo,” Christina says.
Isaiah and his family would like to thank everyone who made Leo possible, but particularly those who helped raise him.
“Thank you!” Christina exclaims. “You gave my son an awesome dog.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser—The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institute at Waseca
Dog Source—Martha Anderson
Long-term Foster Homes—Linda & Stu Wicklund
Name-A-Puppy Donor—Montevideo Lions Club