Kali McKellips is a ten-year-old Champlin, Minn. resident who was born prematurely at 23 weeks of age. At such a tender age, babies are typically around 11 inches long and weighing in at just over a pound. For reference, that’s about the size of a large mango. At this stage, blood vessels in a baby’s lungs are developing to prepare for breathing. Kali was born so early that she needed to have a double lung transplant as an infant. Kali spent a lot of time in hospitals as an infant and young child, her body struggling to grow stronger. She didn’t have the endurance to walk for long distances without the aid of an adult and she came to dread all of her medical visits and procedures.
All that changed when Kali met Buddy, a handsome two-and-a-half-year-old brown Standard Poodle who was trained as a Mobility Assist Dog. By holding onto Buddy’s harness, Kali has the support she needs to walk by herself without an adult holding her up. Because of this support, Kali has gained muscle tone and endurance so that she can walk much further on her own than she ever could before, even with adult help. Buddy also helps Kali with her anxiety by bringing her peace of mind while she attends frequent doctor and dentist visits. Janice, Kali’s mom said, “Before Buddy, Kali would cry and hide her face at her medical visits. Now, she sits in the big chair and she doesn’t cry. Buddy sits right next to her to helps her feel calm. He’s made a night and day difference with her medical anxiety and fear.”
“Buddy has been this calm for her. She’s done the medical procedures and dental visits with this calmness I’ve never seen her have.”
Janice had originally thought about an assistance dog when Kali was younger but realized that she wasn’t at an age where a dog would truly benefit her. A few years later, Janice was searching the internet and came across Can Do Canines. She said, “It was by far the best organization with the most people behind them and the most support.” Janice applied for a Mobility Assist Dog hoping to help Kali get out of needing to be in carts or strollers because she was too weak and winded to walk, and to also help her gain her independence.
“Before Buddy, I was a non-dog lover. Kali always loved dogs, but even just living with one was an adjustment. Now, I can’t think of our life without Buddy! He’s given her so much more than I would have ever hoped for.”
Not only does Buddy support Kali while she walks, he’s given her more confidence and independence to be around her peers. Janice says, “We’re starting to see a difference in size between Kali and her peers. Now that she has Buddy by her side, her personality has gotten so big and she feels like she fits in and she can conquer anything!”
Many people were involved in getting Buddy to where he needed to be in order to help Kali live a more independent life. Janice expresses, “I want to thank everyone involved from the bottom of my heart. Their hard work and hours of training that was poured into Buddy has changed Kali’s life. So many people in Buddy’s life made this possible and I just want them to know how much he’s helped. He’s given her more than what ten years of doctors’ visits could ever give her.”
“I take really good care of Buddy and I love Buddy! Thank you for him!”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser—The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Prison Camp at Duluth
Special Thanks—Stephanie Christie & Kyle Simmons; Dee Dee & Pat Heffernan
Name-A-Puppy Donor—Jacqueline Lundemo
Dog Source—Trinita Mestuzzi