Ridge and Peggy
Those who come to Can Do Canines for an assistance dog have varied levels of experience with dogs. Some have never owned one. Others have owned many. But no one has trained four of their own assistance dogs—until Ridge. Since 1998, he’s trained four of his own assistance dogs.
Ridge didn’t develop his disabilities until his late twenties when he contracted meningitis and encephalitis. “They gave me a 5 percent chance of living,” Ridge says. “I spent three months in the hospital where I was locked in and I couldn’t move, eat, or talk. All I could do was blink my eyes to yes or no questions. I could see everything but it was double, and I could hear things but it sounded like it was underwater. It was quiet and distorted.”
As a result, Ridge began gradually losing his hearing and vision. Today, he has trouble processing sounds and can only see with blurred vision around the edge of his field of view through his left eye. He wears hearing aids, an eyepatch over his right eye, and binocular glasses on his left.
Aside from his hearing and vision challenges, Ridge was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after his time in the hospital. He began to experience trouble walking and random fatigue.
A year after his hospitalization, Ridge trained his first assistance dog, Logan. Over the years he then trained Wyatt, Clyde, and Angel.
Today his disabilities have progressed, making it too difficult to train his own assistance dog. “My vision had gotten a little worse, and I couldn’t deal with the distractions like the bunnies when we walk,” Ridge explains. “So I couldn’t redirect a dog before they could pull me down.”
So Ridge came to Can Do Canines and was matched with Peggy. The experience was much different than training his own assistance dog. “She was already trained for me,” Ridge smiles. “She’s awesome. She’s brilliant.”
Peggy, a Black Labrador Retriever, is a Mobility and Hearing Assist Dog. But she also performs tasks to help Ridge with his vision loss.
While he was waiting to be matched with an assistance dog, Ridge used a guide cane to navigate. Unfortunately, it came with drawbacks. “I had really bad posture because I would look at the ground because I wouldn’t know when a change in elevation was going to be,” Ridge explains. While a cane can help alert someone to a curb or barrier, it can’t detect a change in elevation, throwing someone off balance.
Now Ridge relies on four furry legs instead of a guide cane. Peggy alerts Ridge to changes in elevation, allowing him to feel more confident and stand up straight. She’s trained to stop and wait at curbs, signaling to Ridge that there’s a step up or a step down.
And to help with his hearing loss, she alerts Ridge to sounds and shows him where they’re coming from. Now he doesn’t miss door knocks or smoke alarms.
Bending over puts Ridge at risk of falling, and if he falls, it’s difficult for him to get back on his feet. Peggy picks up what Ridge drops so he doesn’t need to bend over. If he does fall, she retrieves his cane and acts as a brace so he can stand back up.
“I’m not isolated in my apartment,” Ridge explains of his life now with Peggy. “I was really, really depressed without a dog. And she just brings joy back into my life.”
Peggy is a genuinely happy dog, with little quirks and a lot of personality. “When we come in from our walk, her tail doesn’t just wag. It swings back and forth. Like, ‘Yes! We’re home!’” Ridge grins as he imitates Peggy.
Many organizations charge upwards of $25,000 for a dog or make a client raise a portion of the cost. “I wouldn’t be able to raise that amount of money,” Ridge points out. Because Can Do Canines places their dogs free of charge, this life-changing gift is a possibility for many more people who otherwise couldn’t afford to purchase one. “I can’t think of a better organization to give to,” Ridge assures.
“Thank you,” he says with a huge smile as he looks down at Peggy. “I really appreciate it. I really do. I really appreciate it.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: The Chelgren family
Puppy Raiser: Jackson Correctional Facility
Special Thanks: Marcia Hjerpe and The Chelgren family
Whelping Home: Kris Kurtz
Breeder Host: Mary & Bill Sears, The Nelson family
You: Thank you for your donations!