Eleven-year-old Bennett remembers when his parents first told him he would be getting an assistance dog. “I was really excited and I was saying that my life might be changed forever.” That’s just what a cute, little black Lab named Qati (“Catty”) has done for him.
Born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Bennett explains how his muscles tire easily and movements can pose difficulties, saying that he often feels “unbalanced. It’s like I’m going to fall and then I catch myself.”
Qati, who spent some of her first three years in our prison program in Rochester, knows her skills well and loves to perform them for Bennett. She is trained to help Bennett put clothes down the laundry chute, open the refrigerator, get Bennett’s leg braces and pick up various items. This last task is one of Bennett’s favorites because he says, “I don’t have to bend over and have the risk of falling.” Instead, Qati can help him preserve his balance.
A new middle schooler, Bennett is excited to have Qati as a classmate and spent the summer “practicing” with her so she is “ready to go to school.” Bennett’s mom, Jessica, is comforted with this new arrangement too, saying, “My biggest fear as a mom with Bennett having a disability is the other kids and his emotional health, so I feel like him having Qati is a huge relief for him, and for us, knowing that he’ll have someone during the day.”
School isn’t the only place this team will head to together. They will go to Bennett’s karate lessons and doctor’s appointments, and the extra company is already bringing better emotional balance for Bennett. Jessica says, “He just seemed in a better mood, even at his appointments, he just seemed happier and better with her there. And those appointments are tough.” Bennett agrees, adding that with Qati by his side at the clinic, “It felt more comforting being there.”
The two of them get out to explore their surroundings now too. Jessica explains, “He was never going for walks. He hated going for walks, and then when he got Qati, he wanted to go for walks every night.” Bennett admits, “Going for walks is good exercise for me and her, so it’s important.”
Qati has become a steady influence in Bennett’s world, and he and his family are grateful. When Bennett thinks of everyone who spent time nurturing Qati along the way, he says, “I’m glad that they helped train a good dog.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: The Bequette-Kemmis family
Puppy Raiser: Federal Medical Center-Rochester (Prison Program)
Special Thanks: The Kelley-Pegg family, The Bequette-Kemmis family
You: Thank you for your donations!