Learning principles can transcend communication barriers, and Kathy Weihe especially appreciates this as a retired English teacher. After spending her career helping others understand their new native language, it was not unfamiliar to work with a partner whose first language was a foreign one, such as her new canine companion.
During her teaching career, Kathy started to notice that holding papers as well as getting up from kneeling became more challenging. Ultimately the sudden fatigue she would encounter caused an earlier retirement than originally planned. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and continued to see more ways that the condition affected her mobility and well-being. Kathy deals with a loss of sensation in her fingers which makes holding small things and picking up items difficult. She has been adjusting to a new level of exhaustion where her senses start to fade, increasing her risk of an accident. Kathy’s daughter, a veterinarian who knew of Can Do Canines, brought the idea of an assistance dog to the family. Everyone supported the idea and Kathy chose to apply.
A new energy-saving approach
The commitment to this idea paid off when Kathy was partnered with Bixby, a two-year-old Black Labrador Retriever. He has a passion for retrieving and snuggling, which helps tremendously since Kathy constantly feels cold. If Kathy is feeling frustrated by a limitation, Bixby provides a very welcome distraction for her to focus on what’s past that moment. He uses many specifically trained tasks to help Kathy navigate her disability, such as retrieving items and tugging the lower drawers or freezer handle. After leaning over and getting dizzy, or getting in and out of chairs, Kathy can find stability with his brace behavior by putting her hands on his shoulders and/or hips. Outside of the house, Bixby wears a stability harness that Kathy can use to steady herself. On stairs or any time her energy declines Kathy can easily trip, but Bixby helps her to regain balance via the hard handle on his harness.
Grateful for her reason to smile
Kathy’s family and friends are constantly impressed. They remark on how he is always focused on her with a keen sense of figuring out just what Kathy needs. “Thank you for letting him be the sweet boy he’s been, and funny, confident, quiet… He’s the most lovely companion and I know that has to do with what everybody has done for him,” says Kathy as she reflects on his previous handlers. She goes on with the praise, “He has everything that everyone would hope for in a dog.” Kathy and Bixby are excited to share the Graduation stage and show everyone their hard work is making the difference of a lifetime.
You can help more people living with disabilities by donating today at Can-Do-Canines.org/donate.
Special Thanks to:
Puppy Raiser: Stanley Correctional Institution
Whelping Home/Great Start Home: Karin and Elroy Balgaard
Special Thanks: Laura & Mike Pierce The Patterson Family