Disabilities are limiting in many physical aspects, and can also take a huge toll on a person’s mental well-being. Brianna has lived with cerebral palsy for all of her life and has learned to gracefully accept the challenges it brings, including being unable to maintain many motor skills.
However, a complication from a surgery resulted in chronic pain and additional challenges for her. Basic tasks and daily activities became increasingly difficult. Brianna is able to use a manual wheelchair for longer distances and sometimes in the home, a scooter out in the community, or a walker for shorter distances. Family, friends, and her husband help her, but Brianna was looking to secure more freedom for herself. After hearing about assistance dogs from her medical care team, she decided to apply for one. During the process of applying, Brianna had a bad fall. This made her even more determined to help enhance her quality of life. That determination paid off with her matched canine partner.
Opal is a 3-year-old Black Labrador Retriever that is the perfect complement to Brianna’s soft-spoken personality. Opal has a similar, peaceful energy as Brianna, so the young ladies build each other’s confidence as their time together builds a healthy relationship. Brianna has been dedicated and working hard to keep Opal happy in her new, working life.
Opal picks up things that Brianna drops, tugs doors open, and brings Brianna’s walker or wheelchair to her. She activates push plates for automatic doors and flips the lights on and off. At home, Opal can retrieve Brianna’s phone and bring it to her, providing reassurance to Brianna’s husband while he’s at work.
Brianna says it’s a lot of work to remember all of her cues, but the new independence is worth it. So is the joy Opal has brought her from the start. During their first weekend at home, Opal was watching Brianna get ready. When Brianna looked down, she realized Opal’s constantly happy, wagging tail had unrolled a large amount of toilet paper!
The Gift of Opal
“I feel like she’s connected, she’s always watching out for me, always watching me. She’s a wonderful gift,” says Brianna of her sweet canine companion. Brianna is also extremely grateful for everyone, from donors to puppy raisers to staff, who helped make Opal a reality. Brianna would like to say to them, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. She’s a wonderful addition to our family and helps so much. I’m so grateful for everyone’s hard work and time spent.”