Bill Monson & Mobility Assist Dog Percy
Working as an auto mechanic for 25 years, Bill enjoyed his job and loved being around people. Unfortunately, there was a terrible work accident—a transmission jack broke and the transmission landed directly on Bill, bending him the wrong way and breaking his back. Bill tried to persevere and worked for five more years, despite the exacerbation of his back injury. But four back surgeries later, his doctors decided it was in Bill’s best interest to retire.
Bill now uses a wheelchair to get around and stays active by fishing and making unique gifts, like custom pens. As he adjusted to his new life, he found there were countless areas in his life where he could use help.
“I am not supposed to reach down to pick up things from the floor because of my back,” Bill says. “Also I could use some support when transferring from my wheelchair to another area.”
Cheryl, Bill’s wife, echoes his concerns. “Bill has had occasions where he has slid out of his chair and been alone,” she says. “He has had to pull himself along to get to something solid and try to get back into the chair. He’s also had times where his wheelchair has broken down while in it and he’s not had a phone on him to call for help. This is very scary when it happens.”
As a member of the Columbus Lions Club, Bill was familiar with Can Do Canines. But, it took some persuasion from Cheryl before he was fully convinced to apply for an assistance dog. After he decided to make the plunge and apply, Can Do Canines partnered Bill with Percy, a two-year-old Labrador retriever, and the two began their training.
The most difficult part of training for Bill was learning the commands and being consistent with them. Bill expected it to be even more challenging if it wasn’t for Percy. “He made it a lot easier,” Bill says.
Now that the bulk of the learning is behind them, Bill says Percy helps him by picking things up, opening doors and drawers, taking his socks off, and by simply being a good companion.
“Percy helps me more than I thought he would,” Bill says. “I drop things a lot and I don’t even think about it anymore. Percy will hand it to me and look at me like ‘don’t reach for it, don’t bend over, I got this.'”
One of the best ways Percy helps is by using his nose to close the footrests on Bill’s wheelchair after he’s made a transfer. While this may not sound like that big of a deal, it is! Bending over aggravates Bill’s back and using a grabber to try to push the footrests down doesn’t work well. So, having Percy on hand to help with this task has been a great improvement.
Bill says that Percy seems to love his job and is always wagging his tail. When it is playtime, they both get so much joy when Percy “runs like the wind” as Bill watches on. Even trips to the vet office are enjoyable. Bill retells several stories where Percy was complimented for his good behavior when out in public, which makes him proud.
The future is bright for these two as Bill continues his involvement with the Columbus Lions Club and intends to speak about Can Do Canines at other local clubs. He wants to tell his story with Percy at his side and be an advocate for Can Do Canines in order to thank the organization for all they have done for him. Bill wants everyone to know that Percy “is a real blessing.”