Addyson’s personality sparkles as brightly as her Minnesota Jr. Miss Amazing 2019 crown—the perfect accessory whether she uses a walker, a wheelchair, or a pair of heels. A dedicated ambassador, advocate, public speaker, dancer, model, and outright powerhouse, this young lady is a survivor with a story. She fulfils these roles not just while living with disabilities, but because she is living with disabilities. Using her personal experience, Addyson shines light on ordeals that other individuals and families may also be facing.
In middle school and in high school, Addyson noticed she was having increasing mobility challenges. She was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which causes joint pain and other physical complications, all leading to fatigue and lack of independence. Addyson also has PTSD from her early childhood, adding to her reliance on others for physical tasks. This range of conditions kept Addyson fairly stationary, constantly in pain and anxiety if she didn’t have the external assistance she required. Addyson had discussed the potential of having an assistance dog with her therapist and nurse, and finally decided to apply after seeing Can Do Canines helping individuals in her community.
“Love at first sight,” is how Addyson describes meeting Aggi, and she decided this partnership was the start of a new
life. Aggi, a 3-year-old black Labrador Retriever, always wants to be with Addyson, who returns the sentiment enthusiastically. Before Aggi was placed, Addyson had staff to help her constantly with daily activities and usually just went from public events to resting. Aggi helps motivate her to be more active, and to build her confidence in being on her own in the community. Addyson shares, “Before Aggi, I wasn’t 100% sure that I was ever going to be able to live a ‘normal’ life and not need somebody over all the time, that I wasn’t going to be able to do the things that now I have the confidence I will be able to do.”
Aggi has been trained for an array of tasks that will keep Addyson safer and more social. If Addyson falls, she’s able to brace on Aggi’s shoulders, or Aggi can get help if additional humans are needed. She can turn lights on and off, saving Addyson a burdensome trek. Whether at home in Apple Valley or in public, Aggi can be the one to pick up dropped items, whereas Addyson used to solely depend on the kindness of strangers. After having a procedure done, Addyson realized how indispensable Aggi was in helping her do the most basic but necessary tasks. “I sometimes don’t know how I handled life before. Life feels so much more complete.” Not only has Addyson found a best friend that would enable her to embrace a more independent life, but she’s proudly able to take care of Aggi as much as Aggi takes care of her.
All the World’s a Stage
Looking ahead, Addyson is thrilled to finally go do things that she enjoys without another person, such as going on walks in state parks and focusing on her own space and time. Addyson is ready to take on the world with even more confidence, and is thrilled to rely on other people less and less because of Aggi’s helpful presence. “It’s actually more than what I’d hoped for.”
She’s most excited to experience a more normal life as a 23 year old. Not only has Addyson benefitted in physical and mental health, but she is able to do more to support others in paying it forward. To everyone who helped make Can Do Canines possible, “Thank you, and without you I wouldn’t have the life I get to have now. The work you guys do really does matter.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Lindsay Merkel
Puppy Raiser: Stanley Correctional Institution
Special Thanks: The Wahl family, The Noram family
You: Thank you for your donations!