At 18 years old, Amy was partially diagnosed with a mixed connective tissue disease; her symptoms of rash, joint pain and foot drop mimicked several other conditions. Two years later, she started having facial muscle spasms that became more severe. She would have daily episodes that looked like a grand mal seizure, and spasming on her mother’s bedroom floor was a frightfully common scene. Pain, cold or loud noises mean an exaggerated startle for Amy, and her disorder causes her body to have involuntary muscle spasms in response.
Treatments have focused on managing her multiple symptoms, and she’s had to restructure her life in order to best handle her idiopathic condition. When Amy found out about Can Do Canines through a volunteer, she decided to apply for a canine companion who would help her regain a sense of safety and independence.
Just a few months after being accepted to the program, Amy began team training with her meant-to-be match, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever named Ezra. Amy’s unsteady balance and fatigue increase her chances of falling. Plus, her pain causes mobility challenges. Ezra retrieves items from lower surfaces wherever the team goes. To help reduce Amy’s risks at home, Ezra tugs heavy or low drawers and cleans up clothes from the floor to a bin. In an emergency, he gets help by nudging one of her parents to lead them back to her, or if she has a spasm by herself, he can bring the emergency medication bag from under her bed.
Ezra’s greatest benefit to Amy is providing light pressure therapy in response to her muscle spasms. Where longer episodes mean increased pain, contact with Ezra suppresses Amy’s movement and severity of harm. These spasms can cause pinched nerves and migraines, so being able to prevent them creates further long-term benefits. In a therapeutic way, Ezra’s ability to relieve Amy’s stress means less frequent flares.
A Personal Gain to Better Serve Others
With Ezra, Amy can see a new sense of independence in her future. Both finishing graduate school to become a speech language pathologist and working are now within her reach again. “The improvements we’ve made in the past month have been huge,” this Plymouth, Minnesota, resident shares with a smile, “and I can see myself getting to a more independent point because I have him with me.”
Navigating her condition without specific medical answers, Amy couldn’t imagine a treatment option better than Ezra. She tells the Can Do Canines community, “Thank you! I have such a huge sense of gratitude for the time and work put in to making him the perfect partner for me.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Dyan Larson
Puppy Raiser: Jackson Correctional Institution
Special Thanks: Philip Schulz, Julia Allen
Whelping Home: Holly Schultz
You: Thank you for your donations!