By Susan Byers -
It’s easy to understand why Kaiya had an instant connection with her 3-year-old Mobility and Seizure Assist Dog, Fargo.
Both have a strong work ethic, a steady demeanor, and a creative spirit. As an artist, Kaiya uses a steady hand to create intricate body art with henna. As a hard-working yellow Labrador Retriever, Fargo is always close at hand to support Kaiya in countless—and often playful—ways.
Kaiya has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a disorder of the autonomic nervous system that affects blood pressure, heart rate, and electrolyte balance. Kaiya’s symptoms include dizziness upon rising or standing, intense fatigue, and chronic pain. She also has separate but related challenges with gastroparesis seizures.
“My symptoms can vary widely from day to day,” Kaiya explains. “Some days I’m okay. Other days, it’s hard to do basic tasks without the risk of falling, passing out, or having a seizure.”
Despite so many unpredictable issues affecting her mobility, Kaiya was reluctant at first to consider an assistance dog, wondering if she was qualified. But her family knew Can Do Canines Executive Director Jeff Johnson through their church, and he encouraged her to attend an informational session. Kaiya was so inspired by what she learned, she filled out an application on the spot.
Meanwhile, Fargo was in training, showing aptitude in mobility and seizure assistance. When Kaiya was onsite for an evaluation, the staff brought in a couple of dogs for her to meet. “They warned me Fargo might be aloof, but he came right up to me. Our connection was immediate,” she beams.
Soon after, Kaiya and Fargo began training together as a team, both at the facility and on field trips to Target. In late May (with help from Can Do Canines Client Services Coordinator Jenny), Fargo moved in with Kaiya's family, which includes Kaiya, her mom and dad, a college-aged brother, two cats, and a dog named Muffin. “Jenny facilitated the move and made everything so easy for my family–even Muffin,” says Kaiya, who had worried how the two dogs would get along.
Fargo got right to work. Using a rope, he pulls Kaiya up from a lying or sitting position, which helps her conserve energy and manage fatigue. He also gathers items from the floor (so Kaiya doesn’t have to bend over and risk a fall) and retrieves her water bottle (so she stays hydrated). When Kaiya experiences the early signs of a seizure, Fargo lies across her body to calm her nerves, and then nudges her neck and shoulders to wake her up. Before Fargo, it would take hours to recover after an episode, but with his help, she can get back to normal much faster.
When he’s not working, Fargo likes to suck on a soft toy or play in the yard with Muffin. He is also a deep sleeper, often barking in his dreams.
Kaiya is full of gratitude to the entire Can Do Canines community. “Because of Fargo, I have more time and energy to do things I love,” she says. “My life feels brighter because of all the new experiences that Fargo makes possible.”
Such is the strong bond between the body artist and her loyal assistant.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — Deb and Gene Nelson
Whelping Home — Diana Adamson
Name-A-Puppy Donor — American Airlines