Bill Kostur and Mobility Assistance Dog Phoenix
Author: Susan Byers
According to Greek mythology, a phoenix rises. But William (Bill) Kostur, a 68-year-old retiree from St. Paul, Minnesota believes that his Mobility Assist Dog, Phoenix, actually descends – from royalty.
“She’s a queen,” he says, describing the three-year-old white Standard Poodle that has changed his life for the better. “What I cherish most is how she helps me rise each day – from the bed or a chair, using a tug rope.”
Bill has Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a progressive neurological condition where dopamine – the neurotransmitter that connects brain and body – is disrupted, causing loss of fine motor control. For Bill, that means persistent challenges, such as falling or dropping important items, like a cane, walker or cell phone.
He first learned about Can Do Canines at a Parkinson’s event, back when his symptoms were relatively minor. He recalls being amazed by what a Mobility Assist Dog could do. As the disease progressed, Bill and his wife Nancy sought out Can Do Canines.
Enter Phoenix, a stately companion with a desire to serve.
In their time together, Phoenix has learned to get Bill up and organized in the morning, to stay at his side and assist him throughout the day, and to remove his socks, shirt and trousers at bedtime. She is now working on learning to move the foot rests on his wheel chair.
“She is always looking for new ways to help me.”
Phoenix gives Nancy peace of mind as well. “I’m more comfortable leaving the house, knowing Phoenix can help keep Bill safe, or bring him a phone to alert me if he falls,” Nancy says.
Bill is honored to be served by Phoenix – and equally humbled by his role in meeting her needs. “I understand my responsibility as the beneficiary of her services,” he explains. “Phoenix is a full partner in keeping me safe, and that requires me to nurture her need to assist.”
But Phoenix does more than retrieve items; she also brings Bill something else – much laughter. “You should see the looks she gives me when I use the wrong command,” Bill chuckles. “She figured out that if she brings Bill his boots in multiple trips – first, the liner, then the boot – there are more treats,” Nancy adds with a smile.
“Phoenix is a constant source of hope and independence for me.”
Bill and Nancy lead an active life, so Phoenix has learned to take her skills on the road – to therapy sessions, support groups, classes – even Bill’s class reunion. She has traveled by plane and train and as far as the Rocky Mountains. “Wherever we go, Phoenix walks in like a queen and instantly commands respect,” Bill says.
Bill and Nancy are grateful to the many Can Do Canines staff and supporters that made this special relationship possible. “Everything she does for me is because of the two years of training she received before me,” Bill says. “Thanks to all of you, she has changed my life.”
No doubt, a crowning achievement for a queen, ever-devoted to her loyal subject.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser – Karen Larsen
Special Thanks – The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institution, Faribault
Dog donor – LeAnne Pomeroy