Devin, who is in their mid-20s, sarcastically describes having “a fun mashup” of syndromes: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, and post-concussive syndrome.
On any given day, they might use a combination of crutches, a walker and a wheelchair. However, when they drop something, difficulties can arise. “I can't really bend over if I'm using my crutches or my walker. So I would just be stuck there waiting for someone to come get it, or I would have to climb all the way down to the ground, get it, and then figure out a way to climb back up while also holding whatever it is I dropped.” They describe the process as “ humiliating and terrifying … because you never know who's gonna come along.” Devin remembers hoping that someone wouldn’t just run off with their wallet or phone and was “afraid to go anywhere in case something happened.”
But then something did happen. Something good.
Encouraged by doctors, Devin applied to Can Do Canines, and soon, Mobility Assist Dog Olive started addressing all of those fears. Devin reports newfound independence, thanks to Olive’s assistance.
Picking up dropped items is just one aspect of her talents. Since Devin’s wrists are unstable, Olive’s ability to open the fridge and other doors is invaluable. Plus, Devin explains that some door buttons are too far away from the sets of doors for them to make it through in time. Olive, at the end of her leash, can press the button and give Devin a head start. Also serving as a makeshift footrest, Olive can burrow under Devin’s legs when symptoms of blood pressure changes make this necessary.
Having an assistance dog—rather than another person—help with tasks can reduce extra hassle that may result from incidents. Devin mentions falls they experienced before getting Olive and having to stay at the location, filling out a stack of paperwork. Fortunately, those falls are decreasing, as Devin’s had far fewer falls and no injuries since teaming up with Olive. “I don’t know how to put into words how amazing she is,” they said. “She’s just helped so much. I can’t imagine being without her.”
The two are painting the town red now, although Olive’s red cape is not always the only accessory she wears when out and about. One day in June, she donned a more colorful outfit. While attending a Pride event, they were approached to enter a fashion show. Both were decked out in rainbow items, with Olive’s ensemble including a tutu, bandana and legwarmers. Devin boasts, “She has this whole Pride outfit, and it was adorable and she won!”
Olive might also model her raincoat when dashing with Devin across the University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh campus, where they work.
”She’ll want to keep that raincoat handy for the future, since Devin never needs to be buttered up to leave dairy country. Having already taught English in Japan, they love to explore the world. They say, “One of my favorite parts of travel of any sort is doing it on my own.” Now with Olive, they can do that and so much more.
Devin shares, “I'm still learning exactly what my new limits are, so it's just an adventure, really getting to learn what I can do now.” One thing they jokingly say they can’t do anymore is hit the snooze alarm, noting a Lab’s keen insistence on breakfast. “I apparently never get to sleep in again.” Yet, Devin knows that is a small price to pay for the rewards received.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — Federal Correction Institution - Sandstone
Great Start Home — The Nervick Family
Whelping Home — The Nervick Family
Special Thanks — Bobbie Hansvick
Name-A-Puppy Donor — Greg and Cat Stevens