Tiffany Busone is determined to break down the barriers of her cerebral palsy. She’s played power wheelchair soccer in Arizona and has been a recreational therapist at a Paralympic and Olympic training site in Alabama. Tiffany holds three university degrees, most recently graduating with a Master’s Degree of Social Work from the University of Minnesota in 2014. But sometimes her cerebral palsy gets the better of her.
“I have involuntary movements and my hands are often tight and closed, making it difficult to hold on to and carry things such as my cell phone,” Tiffany says. “Being nervous to be home and in public by myself is another barrier I face.”
While Tiffany is able to walk short distances, she uses a power wheelchair because, as Tiffany describes, “it’s safer and faster.” On a daily basis, Tiffany needs assistance performing tasks, such as dressing, bathing and eating. She’s worked tirelessly to overcome these challenges throughout her life, but after moving into a new house in Maplewood, Minn., and when her personal care assistant decided to go back to school, she realized she needed someone to help her full time.
“I felt a service dog would benefit me significantly, both physically and emotionally,” Tiffany says. “Not only to help me during this time of transition, but also in the future.”
Friends on her power wheelchair soccer team turned Tiffany on to the possibility of getting help through Can Do Canines—so she applied. A short time later she was introduced to a beautiful black Labrador retriever named Lenny.
“Lenny jumped up on my lap and licked my face. It was as though we were meant for each other,” Tiffany says. “Despite my speech impairment, Lenny understood me better than anyone expected. In fact, Lenny paid very close attention to my voice and was very intuitive to learn what my different body movements meant.”
Besides retrieving the phone and fetching someone to help, Mobility Assist Dog Lenny is ready to pick up anything that falls out of Tiffany’s hand. This includes keys, credit cards, pens and small change. Before Tiffany had to rely on others to get dressed and undressed, however with Lenny’s help, she is able to take off her socks, pants and shirt independently.
“Lenny not only retrieves papers and other items I drop throughout the day, but his loving personality helps me feel emotionally calm,” Tiffany says. “I think Lenny’s presence puts others around me at ease as well.”
Lenny has already been a big help at home, and Tiffany believes as time passes, and new life events occur, Lenny will find even more ways to increase her independence and quality of life. For that, she is grateful.
“Without the dedication of so many people, none of this would have been possible,” Tiffany says. “Without your support, it would not be possible for me to have this amazing new life with Lenny. I have never loved an animal as much as I love my assistance dog.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: The Accola Family
Short & Long-term Foster Homes: Diana & Michelle Gillman; The Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault; The Weinreb Family