A Dog That is More Than Just a Friend

Dogs can be trained to help humans in an amazing number of ways. We all know this and marvel at the dogs that do search and rescue or assist the disabled. However, unless you read the story of someone that is actually helped by a highly-trained dog, you have no idea the incredible changes they can bring to someone's life. I was reminded of this reading an email from a very grateful dog lover. I think you will find this story as wonderful as I did.

Sandy Miller in Florence, Kentucky writes about living her life with cerebral palsy and how difficult it has been for her. As Sandy has gotten older she has had more and more difficulties with bending over and picking up things that she has dropped as well as opening heavy doors. Living a regular life on her own was challenging and sometimes frightening.

It had been suggested to Sandy that she might want to consider an assistance dog for the disabled. The thought sounded wonderful, but Sandy was sure she couldn't take care of a dog on her own, let alone afford one. All the same, as she had some frightening falls and no one to help her, she began to think it might be something she should consider.

Sandy investigated some organizations on the internet and found Paws with a Cause in Michigan. They had dogs that could help her, but they were expensive. $18,000! But Paws with a Cause was happy to look for a sponsor for Sandy and her dog. They also had volunteer field trainers that would come to her home and help her learn to manage the dog in her own environment.

Sandy was united with a Labrador named Gilmore and a trainer came out once a week to train her. It isn't easy learning to work the dogs and become certified. It took Sandy nearly a year, but it was definitely worth the effort. She says, "Gilmore is trained to open my apartment door when we go out and shut it behind us. He can also push it wide open once I open the latch. He is trained to push elevator buttons, push plates for automatic doors, and walk sign buttons. I have a gadget that I can hang on a commercial door and he can pull it open, and with a rope in the shape of an 8 he can help me get up from my wheelchair or desk chair. He picks things up that I drop unless I specifically tell him to "Leave it." He can even pick up a dime and give it to me! There have been several times when I've fallen and, depending on the command I give, he has either pulled the emergency pull cord in the bathroom or brought me my cordless phone so I could get the help I needed to get up."

Before Gilmore, Sandy once fell on the floor and gave herself a small head wound that was bleeding profusely. Because of her cerebral palsy, she couldn't get up. She yelled for help for 40 minutes before anyone responded. Now that the wonderful Gilmore is around, help is never more than 15 minutes away. More importantly perhaps, Gilmore gives her a reason to laugh, something that Sandy feels she hasn't had a reason to do in years. Her loving dog plays with her, adores her, protects her and is her very best friend. Gilmore had completely changed the quality of her life. Dogs are amazing creatures.