As Sandy was approaching her teen years, she never thought she’d end up withdrawing from the world just when her friends were exploring it more. Four years ago, Sandy started becoming dizzy and unable to hear as much as she normally could. She was diagnosed with vestibular migraines though the cause is still a medical mystery. Sandy’s visual processing was impacted so she is easily overwhelmed by lights and movement. Her migraines are triggered by sounds, lights, vibrations, stress, fatigue, and basic stimuli she encounters on a regular basis. Vertigo, instability, and a heightened sensitivity to motions around her are additional symptoms she experiences constantly.
Simple activities like taking a bus to the grocery store or driving to the mall are impossible because every part of those environments are full of triggers for Sandy. Special glasses help her filter some lights, earplugs cut back on the sounds that tend to overwhelm her, and she always keeps emergency remedies nearby for sudden migraines. With help from her supportive siblings, parents, and community, Sandy found adaptations that helped alleviate symptoms. But even those couldn’t keep her safe and independent. She applied for a mobility assist dog from Can Do Canines, where she met the furriest healthcare companion that would change her life for the better.
Getting a Chance at Normal
Leia is a two-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever who loves to love, and Sandy welcomed the newest member to the family with an enhanced vision for her future. They are both calm and mature young ladies, ready to take on any obstacle with a cautious determination. To help navigate her teen years, Leia’s various skills reduce Sandy’s risks of becoming dizzy, spiraling into a migraine, or falling if she does become unsteady. Leia is specifically trained to retrieve items for Sandy such as a medical supplies bag. She lays on Sandy for light pressure therapy when Sandy feels a sensation of spinning or floating. Thanks to Leia’s attentive supervision, Sandy feels confident enough to stay home on her own again. Leia also keeps Sandy moving safely by wearing a harness fitted with a soft-handle that Sandy holds an anchor when she tips off-balance.
Heartfelt Gratitude for her New Chapter
Before Leia, Sandy would walk along walls and “bounce” off surfaces to stay upright. Now, “I feel more relaxed and calmer,” says Sandy. Her mom commented that Sandy was more excited to go on errands now, where she used to stay in her room. Sandy is already is spending more days in a classroom and building time thanks to Leia.
To everyone who helped raise Leia, “Thank you! They did a really great job,” grins Sandy. Special thanks goes out to each individual who support Can Do Canines and made it possible for Sandy to start feeling like the girl she was four years ago.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Source: South Eastern Guide Dogs
Puppy Raiser: Frank and Vicki Ernst
You: Thank you for your donations of any kind, interest, and support!