David and Mobility and Seizure Assistance Dog Jewel
David and Jewel are a pretty unique team. The first reason is that Jewel is trained in two different assistance dog skills. But this team is unique in a second way—on Thursday, September 14, David and Jewel became the 600th team that Can Do Canines certified!
Because of his disability, David needs both mobility and seizure assistance. So in July of 2017 he was matched with Jewel, a Black Labrador Retriever that does both mobility and seizure work.
David has neurocognitive issues and peripheral neuropathy. This means he struggles with balance, especially on certain terrain, and can fall. His neuropathy causes him to drop things. He also has a seizure disorder where seizures are triggered through new environments or people, crowds, and also from emotional triggers.
When Jewel is showing off her mobility assist skills, she’s retrieving items David has dropped or helping him from falling. When David needs her for seizure assistance, she puts her head in his lap and licks his hands, helping him feel more present.
Because of his cognitive difficulties, David doesn’t have a sense of direction. He gives an example of approaching construction and how he would explain to Jewel how they would get around it. “Before Jewel … I would do it in my head … but then I would get confused about what I was thinking about.” By verbalizing his thoughts, David’s mental mapping becomes more clear.
When asked what Jewel has changed for David, he laughs and says, “She has changed in me a willingness to actually go back out into the world … in the past, I could spend all day getting ready to go out and then never go out.” He then lists all the places he goes and things he now does before saying, “Long story short, I feel more confident to go out and do things.”
David is incredibly grateful for Jewel and the people who helped raise her. “I have an ocean of gratitude for what they’ve put together … [Jewel has allowed] me the opportunity to feel more whole and more human.” If he met those involved in raising her, he would “thank them for helping me take back ownership [and] responsibility of me … for giving me back to myself.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Karin and Elroy Balgaard
Special Thanks: University of Minnesota FETCH Program
Name-A-Puppy Donor: Holly and Ken Schultz
Team Sponsor: Elmer Schindel