Cherie, a retired special education teacher, made a career of helping others. She even served on a national board and local committees for children with emotional disturbance.
However, since 2010, chronic pain from a degenerative joint disease has been debilitating for Cherie. In 2017, she was diagnosed with non-common hydrocephalus. She has a shunt in her scalp to manage the fluid build-up, but a fall that knocks it would be fatal. Cherie has been on the floor for hours at a time because she was physically unable to get up. She’s learned to stay safe by staying close to home and carefully navigating a simple life. She never went anywhere without a human companion, but thanks to her new canine companion, she has gained the confidence to be more independent.
Simple Skills, Lifesaving Work
Quirk is a 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever that helps Cherie be secure, as well as more mobile. Now, after several weeks of practice, Cherie remarks, “She’s so bright! I feel like I’m in middle school and she is in college.” Should Cherie fall, Quirk provides support with a brace skill. This means Cherie can get back up instead of being stranded on the ground. Bending too far can pinch the shunt and shut it off, so Quirk retrieves items at lower levels and opens bottom drawers, helping Cherie immensely. On a regular basis, Quirk gets Cherie’s shoes, socks, hat or a frequently dropped remote. “[Quirk’s partnership] completely changed my life,” Cherie says. Before Quirk, Cherie felt like there was nothing she could do safely, but that has changed now.
It Takes a Village
Cherie says her friends have been just as excited to meet Quirk as she was. It certainly doesn’t hurt that her adorable dog is excited to help! Many community members who have helped her with errands and chores were thrilled to have Cherie gain more independence with the help of her Mobility Assist Dog. Wanting to remain active in her community, Cherie has a goal to be able to regularly tutor at a local school.
When it comes to the people who helped make Quirk possible, Cherie glows! “To invest that time knowing you will have to relinquish the dog and still do such a marvelous job of training her, I truly respect the people that take time to do that, and it shows. It really shows. I think what she does is phenomenal and … other people don’t believe it until they see it.”
The team has done a stellar job keeping each other happy and healthy. They enjoy mall walks during the icy months and are outside as much as possible on nicer days. Cherie is thrilled with what a difference Quirk makes and is grateful for everyone who has been involved. It seems only fitting that someone who has spent her life helping others now has a canine partner helping her.