If you hear ‘Mobility Assist Dog’, you might assume the dog helps their handler move. However, for Mike Rowley of Eagan, Minnesota, an assistance dog means the ability to stand still anywhere and anytime.
Mike has a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, meaning the tendons in his legs and hands are shortened, making his leg muscles fatigue quickly.
While Mike can walk without adaptive equipment, his main struggle is balance and coordination which puts him at a high risk of falling.
Mike is a tall man, so the wait for a height-appropriate dog that could support him would be longer than for other clients. In addition to requiring a tall dog, Mike’s son has allergies and needed a hypoallergenic dog, further increasing the wait.
Mike’s patience paid off in the form of a statuesque Standard Poodle named Felix. Felix is happy to learn and work, but his remarkable skill is walking with a steady pace—an ideal trait for stability assistance.
Mike waited almost two years from his initial application interview until the start of team training, but to have the freedom of movement was worth every moment.
Felix is equipped with a hard-handle harness that helps keep Mike upright when he stops, as well as a soft handle that acts as a counter balance which keeps Mike moving over uneven terrain. Felix is getting Mike out and about, which was previously impossible.
Along with enabling Mike to ambulate freely and safely, Felix’s skills extend to retrieves and tugs which further prevent falls. The eager Poodle helps open doors, retrieve dropped items, pick up his leash, and tug a laundry basket up and down the stairs so Mike can use the handrails.
He is a fantastic companion and Mike is emphatically grateful to all who were involved with the journey that brought Felix into his life.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Kristin & Eric Alman
Special Thanks: The inmate handlers at FCI Sandstone
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM:
This article touched my soul! I too have mobility issues and use my Blue Dobie Bella to assist me in ambulation. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without her. When she was a pup I used a cane or walker when I moved around. I hated the fact that I needed these ambulation assists at my age. My knees were replaced but my back and leg muscles were not sufficiently strong to keep me on my feet. Although I am doing much better now I still need to have Bella assist me in climbing up stairs and up curbs. She is my angel. The bond between a service dog and its handler is an amazing experience, It goes much farther then pet parent and pup. (even though most of us love our pets like family).
September is National Service Dog Month, so if you have a service dog or know someone who has one, make sure that you give that pup the recognition that they deserve.. They are amazing animals
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