By Beth Billstrom -
Addie Swensen laughs as Kip, her Mobility Assist Dog, joyfully jumps into her lap and snuggles. Their bond is apparent.
Missy, Addie’s mom, laughs and says, “He’s such a lover!”
“Yes, yes, he is!” Addie agrees.
Addie was born 16 years ago with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a condition that affects the backbone when the neural tube does not close. Addie uses a wheelchair or crutches to get around, but that doesn’t stop her. She attends school, works at Caribou, and is the manager of her school’s wrestling team. Like many teenagers, she thinks about her future beyond high school and doesn’t see herself living with her parents. But unlike other teenagers, Addie faces daily mobility issues that make her dependent on others.
Addie remembers a mobility challenge prior to having Kip: “I enjoy taking walks outside in my wheelchair. One day while on a walk, my cell phone slipped from my hand, falling to the ground. I sat there hoping someone would walk by and kindly pick it up. But no one was around. When that happens, I don’t know what to do. Should I wait until someone comes to help and be late to my class? Or do I leave my phone and hope someone turns it in, knowing that probably isn’t going to happen? Most likely, I’m going to lose my phone. It’s terrible. I get anxious thinking about these situations.”
“I love my parents and all the help they give me, but I’d like to live on my own after high school. One night I told my mom I’d like to get an assistance dog when I moved out. Then I wouldn’t be so dependent on others when I drop things, need help getting through doors, and I wouldn’t feel so alone.”
Missy thought getting an assistance dog was a great idea! She also thought, “Why wait?” Missy did a simple internet search and found Can Do Canines. She did some more research by asking others what they knew. Friends and family had many positive comments about the organization. So, on behalf of Addie, Missy applied. “I didn’t want Addie to be disappointed if it didn’t work out. I waited until Can Do Canines contacted us to tell Addie. When she found out, Addie was thrilled! We all were thrilled! The process went quickly. We applied in August and heard in March that Can Do Canines had a Mobility Assist Dog match for Addie.”
“Before Kip came into my life, I was always worried about dropping and losing things. I had to depend on others to get what I needed, have them carry things for me, and do a lot of tasks I wanted to do for myself. Kip is such a wonderful support to me. I no longer need to be so dependent on other people. He helps me every day. He’s also so loving and comforting that I’m much calmer. I don’t have that extra anxiety.”
“Kip and I are just getting started. I’m glad we got him now, well before I’m ready to move out. He and I will have lots of time to bond and further develop his assistance skills. I’m already more independent than I was and will continue to grow independently with Kip’s assistance.”
“Can Do Canines is a great organization! I’m grateful for Kip and to everyone who worked hard to help him gain the skills to assist me.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Whelping Home — The Nervick Family
Raisers — Carol Johnson, Rachael Mackie and Matt Fortunato
Special Thanks — Stanley Correctional Institution
Team Sponsor — John Manthey, in memory of Bonnie Manthey