Lia (Rui Rui) Bleifuss & Mobility Assistance Dog Tango
Lia Bleifuss, known to family and friends as Rui Rui, which is a term of endearment, is from Minneapolis, Minn. Rui Rui is a typical 13-year-old and she loves to read, hang out with friends, vacation with her mom Sherry, dad Ethan and sister Ava in the summer and she thoroughly enjoys swimming. In fact, Rui Rui competes on two swim teams. In the past three years, she’s competed at the National Junior Disability Championships with the Courage team in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Rui Rui is a wonderful swimmer who was born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) which is a progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. This means that Rui Rui’s balance is affected, she cannot walk for long distances without the aid of an electric scooter and she doesn’t have a lot of strength or stamina in her legs. She wears braces to help her walk.
“The strength in my legs and fingers is limited and my balance is poor. Without the braces stabilizing my ankles, I can only bear a little of my weight on my legs and I can’t really walk.”
Can Do Canines matched Rui Rui with Tango who is a sweet and notably goofy two-and-a-half year old black Goldador (Golden/Labrador Retriever cross). Tango is Rui Rui’s Mobility Assist Dog and he helps stabilize Rui Rui while she’s on her feet, aids in retrieving items off of the ground and he boosts Rui Rui’s stamina. “I can walk further distances without feeling really, really tired. I’ve gotten more muscles because of my walks with Tango.” says Rui Rui. Tango also provides Rui Rui with more independence and gives her parents peace of mind while she’s out with friends.
“I can go out by myself now. My parents will still worry about me, but they don’t have to come out with me. Also, my friends think Tango is really, really cute!”
Both Rui Rui and her family wanted a dog in their home. Rui Rui wanted a companion and her parents wanted Rui Rui to have an assistance dog who she could responsibly take care of. Rui Rui’s parents came across Can Do Canines after researching a few other organizations. Sherry then spoke with a person who fundraises for Can Do Canines and shortly after their conversation decided to send in Rui Rui’s application.
While talking about the impact that the puppy raisers had on Tango, Rui Rui smiled and said, “Thank you to his puppy raisers! They did a really good job with Tango. He’s a very chill dog and he’s always checking on me to see if I’m okay. He’s a good helper dog!” Rui Rui’s father Ethan noted, “He’s a very good match for her.”
Ethan expresses, “Thank you to the donors and supporters of Can Do Canines. Our lives are full of added expenses. We pay for a lot of things out of pocket, like Rui Rui’s leg braces. There are lot of things like that, that you face when you’re dealing with a disability, so having Tango placed with Rui Rui free of charge was stress relieving.”
“Tango is very personable and he’s brought out the social side in our family dynamics that we really hadn’t had before. He also brings the responsibility of dog ownership to Rui Rui which is great for her to take on positive challenges.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Special Thanks— Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institution – Sandstone
Name-A-Puppy Donor— Lori Ahem