By Mike Branch -
Twenty-seven-year-old Tyler lives with his parents and sister. He has cerebral palsy, which affects his muscles and motor skills. Because of that, he uses a wheelchair. Occasionally, Tyler drops things, and it can be difficult to pick them up.
In 2013, Tyler certified with Can Do Canine Geena, a Mobility Assist Dog. Prior to having an assistance dog, when Tyler would drop something, he would have to wait for someone to come home and help him. He couldn’t be left alone for more than a couple hours. Geena was a wonderful partner to Tyler until retiring in late 2022.
Tyler re-applied for another Can Do Canine and was recently certified with Jiff. Jiff not only helps Tyler pick things up, he also opens doors, pushes buttons, and even helps Tyler with his clothes by gently pulling the socks off his feet or bringing him things that he needs. “Get,” “Bring,” and “Give” are commands that Jiff knows well.
“Now, I no longer have to wait for someone to come home,” says Tyler. With the help of Jiff, Tyler can help himself, allowing him to continue to live a more independent life. Jiff also gives Tyler’s family peace of mind knowing that if Tyler needs help, Jiff will be there for him.
Jiff has created new responsibilities and a sense of purpose for Tyler. “Sometimes I have to put Jiff’s needs before my own,” Tyler says. “In a way, we take care of each other. He takes care of me, and I take care of him.”
When he met Jiff for the first time, Tyler knew they would bond quickly. At the end of their training sessions, Jiff didn’t want Tyler to leave.
Shortly after Jiff came home to live with Tyler, Tyler left the house with his dad to run a short errand. Jiff waited by the back door for Tyler to come home. When he finally returned, Jiff blissfully greeted him. In Tyler’s words, “He basically attacked me because he was so happy to see me. Once I saw that, I knew we had something special.”
Since then, Jiff has been Tyler’s loyal companion. When Tyler goes fishing, Jiff tags along and sits by Tyler on the dock while he fishes.
Tyler wants people to know that without dogs like Jiff, people like him would have a harder time doing things that others take for granted. Jiff adds to Tyler’s quality of life, bringing him independence, responsibility, and companionship. Without Can Do Canines, Tyler wouldn’t have this opportunity.
Tyler shares, “In the winter, Jiff is like a big fur blanket. I guess that’s why they’re called ‘Man’s best friend.’ Dogs offer their own kind of love that even a human can’t offer.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Whelping Home — Dana and Pete Kittok
Raisers — Savion Becker, Gina and Pat McGraw, Steve Schreiner
Special Thanks — Jackson Correctional Institution