Connie Hanson and Mobility Assist Dog Trek
By Kaity Padden
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-changing disease. It damages the protective covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and can greatly disrupt someone’s physical and cognitive abilities. It’s a disease that presents itself unexpectedly, showing different symptoms in each person it affects. However, Connie Hanson’s experience with MS has been made better by the companionship of a new assistance dog.
A longtime resident of Richfield, Minnesota, Connie was working as a waitress when she was diagnosed with MS in 1999. Prior to her diagnosis, she had full mobility and independence. The disease was very slowly progressing until a severe “attack” in 2001 caused Connie to lose all feeling and movement from the waist down.
Connie describes the suddenness in that she, “was working full time and a week later I was in a wheelchair not being able to feel my legs”. She spent a few weeks in the hospital, then four weeks in an inpatient rehab facility learning to use a wheelchair, as well as making other adjustments in her life. Connie was able to use a manual wheelchair for two years before needing a power wheelchair in 2003.
During this time, Connie and her husband took their German Shepherd to classes to teach him how to be her assistance dog. Her husband and her dog were a tremendous help by assisting her when she dropped something, pressing the handicap door button, and for simply being her companions when times got hard. Unfortunately, her dog passed away in 2014 and her husband of 30 years passed away in January 2016.
Life became lonely and scary for Connie; she found herself getting outside less and less. Her fear of falling increased and she worried that she wouldn’t be able to get help when no one was around. In one instance, Connie fell while transferring into her wheelchair and it took her an hour to get to a phone. She realized that she needed help to feel more independent and safe—the solution was another assistance dog. Shortly after applying to Can Do Canines she was matched with Mobility Assistance Dog Trek, a calm, loving three-year-old Goldador (Labrador/Golden Retriever cross).
Once Trek moved in with her, Connie immediately felt safer and found herself getting out more, eagerly looking forward to her and Trek’s daily walks to the park. Trek picks up items Connie drops, retrieves her purse and grabber, helps carry things from the car and can bring her the phone in an emergency. Since Trek has moved in, Connie has been able to reduce the number of PCA (personal care attendant) hours she needs, increasing her feeling of independence. Connie no longer wonders what her purpose is: “I’ve got to take care of Trek and he’s got to take care of me.”
After experiencing such hardship, Connie feels that everything has fallen into place and is thankful to have found Can Do Canines in her time of need. As Trek looks attentively at her she says, “Can Do Canines has done such a beautiful job with him; he is such a good boy.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Diana and Paul Adamson
Puppy Raiser: The inmate handlers at Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone
Special Thanks: Kathryn McFadden