Robert Keck and Mobility Assistance Dog Leo
Author: Jake Grossman
For many of us, taking on a new pursuit might mean starting a hobby, going on a trip, or trying out a different haircut. For Robert, a web designer from Hopkins, Minn., being matched with Mobility Assist Dog Leo began as a fresh opportunity at “a perfect time in life.” This new chapter has blossomed into a beautiful relationship: the two have been a fantastic team ever since Leo’s placement. Leo has boosted Robert’s confidence and given him an “extra hand” with day-to-day tasks.
Robert, who was born with cerebral palsy, has some muscle weakness and spasticity and uses a power chair for mobility. Robert is a power chair soccer player who is described by friends as outgoing, motivated, determined, caring and helpful. He thinks of his life as one filled with many successes, yet Robert did not want to rest on his laurels. He was motivated to work and train with four-year-old black Labrador Leo. He saw the experience as a chance to improve his own sense of self-confidence and to have the much-needed mobility help.
Applying for a Can Do Canines Mobility Assist Dog was not a decision that Robert took lightly. Beyond wanting help with day-to-day tasks, he was ready for the potential to grow and learn. Knowing that he would need to participate actively in Leo’s training and adaptation to post-graduation life, Robert saw the placement as more than just getting a dog. So far, Leo and Robert’s hard work and dedication have paid off in spades. Robert’s friends and family have noticed his new self-confidence and the loyalty with which Leo keeps an eye on him. “The trust factor is there. Leo is loyal and he’s always there for me,” notes Robert.
Leo was trained by Can Do Canines to help Robert by retrieving dropped objects, opening the fridge, activating push plates (to open doors), and serving as a much-needed back-up in many situations. Robert knew they would have to trust each other and “work as a team,” and it took time for them to bond together.
It is easy to focus on the many helpful, concrete tasks that assistance dogs can perform. In these ways, Leo contributes a great deal to helping Robert feel more confident and self-assured whether around the house or out and about. Still, Leo’s role in Robert’s life goes deeper than helping to open doors or pick up a dropped pen. For Robert, already a successful professional and amateur athlete, Leo provides peace of mind and improved self-confidence. Most importantly, Robert notes, “Leo makes it possible for me to have the freedom that I deserve.”
To donors, volunteers and Can Do Canines staff, Robert says, “Without Leo here, there would be things in my life that would be much more difficult. Thank you to everyone!”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser – Federal Correctional Institution, Waseca
Special Thanks – Linda Wicklund
Name-A-Puppy donor – Merrie Bertrand
Dog Donor – Martha Anderson