Among the many life lessons to live by from Star Wars, we can understand that fate never tells us the odds, and it’s up to us to fulfill our destiny. A special dog is helping one man better understand these messages.
When Army veteran and avid runner Rich suddenly lost almost half of his mobility function, he became twice as dependent on help from others. While remodeling his Coon Rapids home in 2011, Rich fell off the roof and suffered a massive stroke. This caused extremely limited use of his right side, as well as aphasia and ataxia that affects his ability to speak. Rich also started experiencing seizures and dealt with grand mal seizures for years until medication was able to help manage the severity.
After a strenuous recovery, Rich lived with and relied heavily on his father, Mike. Both of them not only worried about Rich having a seizure, but they were also afraid for him to be alone in case he dropped something important or fell and couldn’t get off the floor. A neighbor who saw a news segment on Can Do Canines prompted Mike and Rich to research the idea. They applied for a dog for Rich, and in 2014, he was placed with combination skills Seizure and Mobility Assist Dog named Journey.
Journey passed away in February 2020. The powerful loss shook Rich and Mike’s worlds, so Rich reapplied for an assistance dog from Can Do Canines. Since he is a priority for placement as a successor team, just a few months later they met his new canine partner.
The Force is Strong with This Team
Jedi is a 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever whose tail is always wagging and senses are always on alert. Never missing a thing, Jedi is constantly by Rich’s side for whatever he may need. When Rich feels a tingling sensation as an “aura” or warning for an oncoming seizure, he will have Jedi apply light pressure therapy by lying in a “snuggle” on him. As another option, Rich can also lean forward in a sitting position to allow Jedi to sit between his feet and lick his face. Both tactile stimulating skills help Rich maintain conscious connection as much as possible, shortening seizure and recovery duration. The behaviors help lessen Rich’s anxiety, in turn lowering the chances of him having a seizure.
Jedi uses his powers of immeasurable assistance, such as retrieving fallen objects, tugging doors and drawers, and pulling off Rich’s jacket sleeve or other clothing articles. If Rich needs additional help, Jedi will run through the house to alert Mike and return to wherever Rich is. As Rich takes Jedi for walks, plays games with him, and continues to train, the bond between them strengthens. Jedi seems to use his mind tricks to know exactly what Rich is thinking without needing to say it out loud.
This Is the Guide He was Looking For
Mike shares that he remembers the overwhelming joy he saw on Rich’s face when he met Journey, and after a devastating loss led to depression, that joy returned with Jedi. To everyone with Can Do Canines, especially those who made Journey and now Jedi possible for Rich, “There is no way to fully thank them all for their hard work and devotion. You all have changed Rich’s life for the better, not to mention the hundreds of others who have been blessed with one of your remarkable assistance dogs.”