Tiffany says of her Can Do Canine, Ruby, “I fell in love with her the first time I saw her.”
Tiffany has had dogs all her life, but never one with a black spot on their tongue, and not a skilled assistance dog before. Ruby, though, is committed to proving her worth.
This beautiful black Lab has been trained for both hearing and mobility assistance to help Tiffany deal with symptoms caused by a 2020 traumatic brain injury. The risk of falling and hurting herself when bending over is one of Tiffany’s biggest fears, so Ruby is happy to pick up anything Tiffany needs. In fact, that love of retrieving items runs deep. Tiffany explains, “She tried to bring me my dad's stapler when I was over at his house,” so Tiffany is careful to reward only behaviors that are requested.
Other cues in Ruby’s bag of tricks include alerting to sounds, including the phone, a timer, the doorbell, someone calling Tiffany’s name, and the smoke detector; activating push plates; closing doors and drawers; “parking” under chairs; and getting help. One such example occurred when Ruby fetched Tiffany’s brother, Mike, from elsewhere in their shared home when Tiffany was experiencing a medical emergency and cued her beloved partner to get him. “I’m very proud of her,” beams Tiffany.
The inspiration Ruby is providing has prompted Tiffany to set a goal for herself. Although Tiffany uses either her cane or walker to get around, she is becoming more comfortable with Ruby at her side. Tiffany has her sights set on “one day just walking with her and not having to use any walking device at all.”
Ruby takes her job seriously but understands when she can let her hair down too. Tiffany says, “She's all business when her vest is on, but when her vest is off, you can see more of her personality come out. She's a dog, and she's just crazy.” Tiffany and Mike keep Ruby active with their games of “Puppy Ping-Pong” when they take turns calling her name. Tiffany also has plans to take Ruby fishing so they can enjoy Tiffany’s favorite pastime together. On poor weather days, they are happy to watch movies together, although Tiffany has discovered that Ruby has more skills with the remote control beyond retrieving it. “If she doesn't like the channel, she'll turn it.”
Considering the difference Ruby has made in her life, Tiffany admits, “I don’t know how I got by two and half years without her. I can actually sleep at night, knowing that if something comes up, she’ll let me know.” For this reassurance, she wishes to thank everybody who had a part in her training. “They gave me my life back.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Raisers — Kathy & David Everson, Joanne Scherber, Hannah & Brandon Schmidt
Special Thanks — Federal Correctional Institution - Sandstone, Jackson Correctional Institution, Stanley Correctional Institution, University of Minnesota FETCH Program