An expert in business and beer, Dan steered his role as a leader in executive management to focus on his passion by opening a distillery several years ago. With a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and its progress of over 15 years, however, he went from managing a business to managing a disability.
Experiencing tremors in his hands, stiff muscles, constant pain, and severe balance issues, Dan lost much of his independence. While his life shifted away from his regular adventures, he persevered in caring for himself and his family with the help of surgeries and new technology. Dan would go on walks near his Minneapolis home and do activities to gain strength, but several falls sent him back to a hopeless feeling. He eventually became anxious just moving around the house by himself in case he suddenly fell or needed additional support.
From a Parkinson’s-themed magazine, Dan learned about dogs assisting people with similar symptoms as his. These dogs specifically were retrieving items to prevent the handler from bending over. The constant fear of losing his balance and falling suddenly seemed to have found a solution, so Dan applied to Can Do Canines. Dan welcomed the idea of a trained canine companion to keep him safer, especially under additional stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A New Level of Teamwork
Dan remembers meeting Mallory, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever who is just as wiggly as she is ready to work. “Mallory is a gift from heaven,” remarks Dan, who believes his near-perfect canine companion loves everyone.
Just as Dan fearlessly led employees, he has again learned to give ongoing feedback and guidance for his new working partner. Mallory saves the day on a regular basis, retrieving items for Dan and cleaning up objects he can’t safely reach. If he requires additional assistance, Mallory can go find Dan’s wife in the house and alert her to his need. “Bending over can mean a death sentence for me. I was a very successful businessman. I’m not afraid of anything, but I am afraid of falling. It’s the worst thing that can happen to me,” Dan explains.
Mallory is also learning to nudge Dan’s hand or leg with her nose as a tactile stimulation to help him move again during episodes when his body freezes up. Mallory can tug his jacket sleeves off, carry or drag small bags around the house, and offer light pressure therapy to relieve stressful moments. Other than the skills she provides in and out of the home, Mallory enjoys her play time and tricks for fun. Dan says, “She’s still a dog, not a mechanical robot. I get both a trained superior companion AND a dog.”
Appreciating Value and Invested in the Process
Dan is incredibly grateful for Mallory, always at his side, helping him navigate the tumultuous days with Parkinson’s. He, his wife, and children have seen a transformation in their world—namely his confidence in getting around and out of the house.
Of course this team is only possible because of you, the Can Do Canines community, and Dan shares that he’s able to have this new life because she was placed at no cost “These dogs are so precious, it shouldn’t be such a luxury to get one, which it seems like to me. I can’t thank enough the people that made this incredible dog so perfect for me.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Stacey Kraus
Puppy Raiser: Stanley Correctional Institution
Special Thanks: Larry & Angie LaBathe, Christine Laney
You: Thank you for your donations!