Rebekah, who was matched with Seizure Assist Dog Castle in late 2022, has a history with working dogs. She says, “I had a Golden Retriever growing up as a kid. He was a trained therapy dog.” Without knowing this history, Can Do Canines selected Castle for Rebekah, who also happens to be a Golden Retriever. Referring to this coincidence, Rebekah says, “Having Castle is almost like he’s living on through her.”
Compared to her previous dog, Castle is trained to help Rebekah with new challenges in her life. When Rebekah applied to Can Do Canines, she had what she called a “trifecta” of disorders: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and mast cell activation syndrome. “Migraines and pseudo-seizures frequently ‘compliment’ these diagnoses,” she adds. On any given day, she might experience chronic fatigue, loss of consciousness from standing up, joint dislocation from leaning down, difficulty with loud noises or flashing lights, and more. She tried to manage these challenges as best she could, but in 2019, a concussion intensified Rebekah’s symptoms.
Working toward a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, Rebekah had a full plate, so fatigue, alone, made life difficult. She explains, “When I was trying to live on my own and do full-time school, I slept a lot. And I mean a lot. At my very worst, I slept about 15-18 hours every 24-hour period. I would basically go to the gym (for my blood pressure), go to class, and then sleep the rest of the day, just waking up to cook and do a few assignments.”
When she was able to be up and around, unusually low blood pressure often brought fear. It was not uncommon for Rebekah to faint in her apartment, on the sidewalk, on the way to class, or even in class. She says, “I was very careful to sit in places I thought would be ‘safe’ to pass out; I failed sometimes and would hit my head.”
Now, Castle not only helps to keep her safe, but also has given her a new “leash” on life. Once they officially got matched and Castle moved in, Rebekah says, “For the first time in a long time, I was excited to wake up and take on the day. . . I have a reason to live. I couldn’t have answered that before.”
Castle is equally excited to be the working dog in Rebekah’s life. Rebekah comments, “When Castle looks at me, she looks at me with pure love.” Then, when it’s time to work, “her teeth literally start chattering out of excitement when she realizes we get to start training.” By picking up items for Rebekah, Castle helps minimize Rebekah’s episodes. “She also provides visibility,” says Rebekah. “In the past, a lot of people thought maybe I was drunk when I was having pre-seizure activity [or passed out]. Having Castle around shows, ‘Hey! She might need help!’” Also, Castle’s deep-pressure therapy prevents blood pressure crashes for Rebekah, and the sensory stimulation from petting her fluffy Golden Retriever can help Rebekah snap out of an episode.
Being less scared to live life, Rebekah now takes daily walks, accepts social invitations, and has future plans of living with Castle together in the city. She sums up her new situation, saying, “Castle helps me see a future where I can and will do things. [She] is the reason I have started dreaming big again. I am most grateful for a second chance at life. Last year, I could barely see any future. I thought of my life in terms of endings, not beginnings. Castle is my beginning: to life, to love, to opportunity.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser — Ciara Hildebrandt
Special Thanks — The Nervick Family