When Harry Hutchins of Grand Rapids, Minn. realized he was relying too much on family to hear sounds for him, he decided to apply for an assistance dog. Unfortunately for Harry, the same genetic condition causing his hearing loss is also causing declining mobility, and falls are a regular concern. Harry’s thought of getting an assistance dog wasn’t strictly about him, it was also about peace of mind for his family.
“They were always needing to help me and they were always worrying about me.”
Harry initially interviewed for a Hearing Assistance Dog, yet it was apparent he could benefit from a Combination Skills Dog—Hearing Assist (HAD) and Mobility Assist (MAD). Can Do Canines had just the right dog for Harry, a hard-working, sweet-natured yellow Labrador named Hayes.
Harry and Hayes began training in May and have been growing together since. “I never dreamed she could do so much for me; she is just amazing!” Harry exclaims. And Hayes is amazing! Hayes’ HAD skills include alerting Harry to sounds—smoke alarm, door knock, timer for his meds; her MAD skills include retrieving dropped items, bracework (to help Harry out of a chair or off the ground), get help (“find Sue”), clothing removal, and more. As if all that wasn’t enough, Hayes also acts as Harry’s medical alert ID. Harry received a transplant in the winter of 2016 and it is important for emergency personal to be aware of that fact; Hayes wears a backpack to carry special emergency instructions for Harry.
The list of things that Hayes helps Harry with is long. Harry notes that the bracework has been especially helpful to him. “Hayes is always there to help when me when I fall,” Harry comments. Although Harry has a special appreciation for the bracework, he acknowledges that Hayes seems to favor retrieves; when they are at the YMCA Hayes will grab his towel or the leash without prompting, just as Harry finishes each set. At home, Hayes will retrieve anything—dropped keys, towels, the mail, even a book.
Harry is staying busy with Hayes by his side ready to help. Together they go to the farmer’s market, stores, and walking in the woods; Hayes even tags along on Tuesday mornings when Harry does a radio program for a local station. Hayes has also accompanied Harry on a few trips which included activities such as tent camping, a ferry ride, a gondola ride in Colorado, and a loon count; Hayes is a champ and takes it all in stride.
If you are considering an assistance dog, Harry has some advice: “It takes time to have an assistance dog. You need to take care of the dog so it can take care of you. And, gone are the quick trips to the store; you have to add on time to get your dog ready to go and time for all the people who will stop to talk to you or try to pet the dog. It’s worth all of it!”
To all who made Hayes possible for Harry—the donors, volunteers, staff, and many others- Harry and his family would like to say a great big thank you. “It has been a positive, life-changing event for all of us,” says Sue, Harry’s wife. Harry adds, “I received both a kidney [from a private donor] and my service dog Hayes this year; I feel pretty lucky.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home—Nancy Sue Edgar
Puppy Raiser—The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institution at Waseca
Special Thanks—Mike & Teresa Haugen
Dog Source—Don Cavin
Name-A-Puppy Donor—Lora Craft