It’s easy to see why Newfadors—dogs that are a hybrid of Newfoundland and Labrador Retriever breeds—often make perfect Mobility Assist Dogs. They’re big. They’re strong. They’re responsible. And they love to work. So in Fall 2020, a beautiful, black Newfador named Issa (as in “Melissa”) became the perfect assistance dog for Bette, from Hastings.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 20 years ago, Bette struggles with mobility, dexterity and balance. She says, “It affects practically every aspect of my life.” Bette uses a cane to walk, but says of the way she sometimes used to make her way across a room, “I held onto the wall and hoped for the best.” Now she has Issa to hold onto, and she’s been Bette’s best supporter, literally. Not only does Issa offer her big, strong body for Bette’s lateral motion, but also for her upward motion, helping Bette recover from the floor if she does fall. “She helps me do things a little quicker, like getting up from the floor,” says Bette. “I can do it by myself, but it takes forever, and with her, it doesn’t. If I can lean on her, brace with her, I can get up quite a bit faster.” That’s especially important because this timely action can prevent an alert from going off on Bette’s phone to automatically send a notice for help.
It's a…or “Issa”…Match Made in Heaven
It was Bette who sent her own “notice for help” when applying for assistance dog. Her daughter found Can Do Canines online, believing a dog would help Bette maintain her independence. Bette explains that before Issa, she used to spend a lot more time in the house. Now, the pair enjoy regular walks and even playing Frisbee together. Accessorized with a harness, Issa provides stability for Bette when they are out and about, giving Bette more confidence with movement than she has had in a long time.
Issa is equally valuable indoors. “She is more eager to do more things for me than I can even think of things for her to do,” says Bette. “She obviously likes to be working.” Whether it’s by picking up dropped items or nudging Bette back to full awareness when she “freezes up,” Issa has made life easier for Bette, who shares, “It’s like getting up in the morning is not a hassle anymore.”
A New Norm
Bette recalls their first meeting, saying, “You know, it just felt so normal. I couldn’t’ believe it.” And Issa has lived up to the expectations Bette had…and then some. “She’s more than what I had hoped for,” states Bette. Even when Issa is not directly assisting, she demonstrates success. Bette explains, “My friends came over to play bridge and she was so good. She stayed on her ‘go’ mat.”
In fact, it’s not just her friends who Bette wants to visit her. Speaking about everyone who played a part in raising Issa, Bette says, “I wish they could come and spend some time with me so they could see what a great dog she is that they raised.” She adds, “I’m grateful for all the people that helped her get her start, and I’m not even sure who all that is.”
Although many people have played a part in Issa’s life, every bit of training leaned in the direction of these two lovely ladies finding their way to each other for this new life together.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Wanda Gordon-Evans
Puppy Raiser: Sherry Patterson
Special Thanks: Karin & Elroy Balgaard, Federal Correctional Institution-Sandstone, Jackson Correctional Institution
You: Thank you for your donations!