Allie first knew something was wrong when she was in seventh grade. While in gym class, she was walking to pick up a volleyball. She says, “The next thing I knew, I was on the ground and in more pain than I'd ever been in.” Her knee would not straighten until her dad helped release it later. Allie explains, “It popped, and that's when we realized that it had dislocated.”
The incident wasn’t an isolated one, and Allie kept experiencing joint dislocations, only to receive no helpful diagnoses. At age 16, she says she gave up, thinking, “I guess I'll never know what's wrong with me.”
It wasn’t until a few years later, while studying abroad in Spain, when she was watching an online video, that something clicked. Someone described their experiences with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and the story resonated with Allie. Once she was back home, a doctor confirmed her suspicions and recommended Can Do Canines to her.
At about that same time, her parents’ dog ran into her and knocked her knee out of the socket. It took months to recover, and each new dislocation brings a fear of not fully healing. Allie shares, “That's when I first started to identify as being disabled because I was like, I can't walk anywhere without a cane. I can't go up and down stairs. This is more than just like a medical condition at this point. It's really impacting my day-to-day life.”
Allie knew it was time to take the doctor’s advice.
Now, she has someone who is impacting her day-to-day life in a positive way. Finley, a 3-year-old yellow Lab, is ready to help anytime Allie drops something. She says, “Every time I bend over, it's very painful and there's a risk that I could slip something. So her being able to pick things up has really lowered my daily level of pain.”
Allie recalls a specific, important moment with her new furry partner. Shortly after Finley moved in, Allie was having what she calls a “high pain day.” She was on the couch but hadn’t had any food yet that day. She explains, “I knew I needed to get up and eat, but I couldn't get up because I was in too much pain. I couldn't go get meds because they were across the room from me. And then I remembered that Finley could.” Her new Mobility Assist Dog retrieved her medication, and after about a half hour, Allie was able to get up and make herself a meal. “It meant that I could eat that day,” she states.
Living on her own means a lot to Allie. She says, “I want to be able to continue living alone and not have to rely on somebody else.”
Finley brings that same independence to Allie’s work life. A fifth-year middle school teacher, Allie has an additional body in her classroom “I don't have to rely on other people and especially on my students. They're very understanding and generous, but it's not their job to mitigate my disability. And so to be able to do that myself by using Finley really makes a big difference for me.”
Allie sees the bigger picture too of what having Finley means in her life. “It allows me to stay in the job I have. Teaching is a pretty physically demanding job in a lot of ways. There's a lot of standing, a lot of walking. It's also just extremely exhausting, and having chronic pain is extremely exhausting. So I don't know how long I would last in the profession if I didn't have her.”
Though Allie uses a cane when necessary and admits, “I've got a brace for like every joint,” Finley’s assistance will aid in preserving the health of joints, as well as Allie’s confidence. “I'm more willing to try going on like a hike because she's there and can help me if I fall,” explains, Allie. “I feel more capable. It’s freeing.”
Allie also appreciates how freely Finley offers love. Describing Finley as a “snuggle bug,” she says the two of them have a favorite nightly ritual of “evening cuddles.” Even Allie’s cat benefits from Finley’s companionship, as Allie notes, “They're like best friends.”
Allie made good relationships with her Can Do Canines Client Services Coordinators, Jen and Alaina, saying, “They were so helpful and so there for us the whole way, and such cheerleaders for us. It really made me feel confident. You can tell that they really care. It’s more than just a job, you know? It’s like they’re passionate about it.”
Finley is equally passionate about caring for Allie, and jointly, they will work to keep Allie healthy and independent.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — Lee Valencour
Great Start Home — Madelyn Carlson
Whelping Home — Diana Adamson
Name-A-Puppy Donor — Medica Foundation