Steve and Sherry were no strangers to Can Do Canines. Steve had Can Do Canine Rhett, a Golden Retriever, as a Mobility Assist Dog from 2007 until early 2021 when Rhett passed.
Rhett had helped Steve with various tasks, both at home and out in the community. However, with the pandemic in effect, Steve was realizing that staying mostly at home was becoming his new way of life. He didn’t feel he needed a true mobility dog again, but having a certified dog that could help with tasks around the house was necessary. So when he and Sherry attended a virtual presentation about skilled home companions, led by Can Do Canines Director of Training Julianne Larsen, they felt they had a new option.
In mid-2022, Steve was paired with Skilled Home Companion Grady, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever/Lab mix. Steve uses a wheelchair, having no function in his hands or legs. He says of Grady, “He’s my hands.”
Grady’s “hands” and other body parts pick up items Steve drops and open and close doors and drawers. In fact, Steve remembers while in between dogs, he was outside and saw something lying in the yard. He recalls, “I figure I’ll just go get it. And I got thinking, ‘Well, what am I gonna do when I get there? I can't pick it up anyways.’”
Now it’s Grady who subdues that feeling of helplessness in multiple ways. He’s a pro when asked to “Get Mom” (Sherry), nudging her so she knows Steve needs her assistance, day or night. Although Steve claims an earthquake couldn’t awaken Sherry, Grady knows all the tricks to do so, helping her realize that Steve might need to be re-positioned or have a blanket removed.
At times, it’s Grady who needs to give assistance while Steve is lying down. By snuggling up and applying deep pressure therapy, Grady can help relieve Steve’s back spasms. Not only does this alleviate discomfort, but as Steve says, “It takes a person’s anxiety away.” He goes on to share that having Grady makes his life so much easier. “Just the self-confidence a guy has knowing that … if I gotta get a phone or something, [he’ll] get it.”
Upon getting Grady, Steve was also given some other special items. He explains, “Whoever was training Grady sent two Christmas ornaments that had his picture” and a note to be sure to give to Grady.” Steve was deeply touched by the gesture. Yet, it’s clear that the gift of Grady is all Steve could have asked for.
Steve and Sherry want to “thank everybody that gives to Can Do Canines. It’s all appreciated. We wouldn’t be able to afford a dog [otherwise],” says Steve.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — The Hartmann Family
Whelping Home — The Kittock Family