Kerry Houts & Mobility Assist Dog Vinnie
By: Jake Grossman
Before getting in touch with Can Do Canines, Kerry Houts never dreamed that an assistance dog might help her lead a comfortable and healthy life. “When I was growing up,” she said, “A service dog was only for people with visual impairments.
Kerry has lived with cerebral palsy since birth. The neurological condition impairs her balance and she often uses a cane or walking stick to get around. With age and the onset of arthritis, falls became more common for Kerry, who realized that she could use some extra assistance. As a health coach who works at home, she was quick to recognize the potential impact that a service dog could have on her life.
Enter Vinnie, a two-year-old black Labrador and a trained Mobility Assistance Dog. Since entering Kerry’s life, Vinnie has become her constant companion. They stick together in her home office during the day and make regular outings to attend church, go out to eat, and visit neighbors and family. Vinnie was trained by Can Do Canines to act as a brace for Kerry if she falls. He picks up items she has dropped on the floor and he helps boost Kerry’s stamina by helping her walk further. A wonderful bonus for Vinnie’s dog-loving owner is the companionship that he provides. All the while, Kerry reports that her balance and endurance have improved.
Others in the family benefit from Vinnie’s helpful nature as well. Kerry’s nephew has autism and has overcome his fear of dogs through spending time with Vinnie. “He gets that little smile on his face while with Vinnie,” his aunt reports.
Things have generally gone smoothly for the pair, although some initial adjustments had to be made. When Vinnie first moved in with Kerry, she would sometimes wake up from a nap to find him nestled between her legs! Now, they each get their own side of the bed.
What does the future hold for Kerry Houts and Vinnie? From first learning what an assistance dog could help her, to living with one, Kerry has become a convert. Vinnie was provided to her free of charge from Can do Canines because of donors and supporters like you. Kerry says she is determined to save money to donate the value of her successor dog to Can Do Canines so that others can also receive a wonderful helper like Vinnie. “Everybody plays a part” on the Can Do Canines team, and Kerry hopes to volunteer with the organization that has provided her with her faithful assistance dog.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser— Jim & Pat Knorn
Special Thanks— The Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault