Mark Hawkins & Mobility Assistance Dog Uno James
Author: Vera Mariner
Mark Hawkins’ life changed when he was rear-ended ended at a stoplight a few years ago. Mark was sandwiched between two vehicles resulting in severe damage to his neck vertebrae, nerves, tendons and ligaments. He’s tried rehabilitation, physical therapy, shots and surgery with no change to the physical range of motion of his head and neck; his head is tilted slightly backwards and he cannot swivel his head in any direction.
Mark struggles with not having the ability to see straight down in front of him as well as dealing with migraines and severe vertigo. Mark also has challenges with bending over to pick up dropped items like car keys or taking laundry out of the dryer because it almost always brings on nausea and his severe vertigo.
“The vertigo can be short term or it can be a half hour or more where the world is spinning inside my head, even if I’m perfectly still. The world is really moving fast.”
After feeling discouraged while researching assistance dog organizations and finding out how expensive they can be, Mark decided to stop looking for a while. Then he drove past Can Do Canines. That’s when he decided to give it another shot.
Enter the handsome two year-old black Labrador Retriever – Uno James. One of Uno’s biggest jobs is to retrieve Mark’s phone if it’s misplaced or dropped, so that he can contact the nurse or help line if he’s fallen. Mark says, “Having Uno be able to pick up and retrieve things is just part of his daily tasks and this is hugely beneficial to me.”
After receiving Uno James, Mark quickly realized how much of a help he would be. Mark notes that his vertigo episodes have decreased because Uno is there picking up objects off of the ground. Uno is also great with verbal commands and is especially wonderful at waiting to go up or down the stairs until Mark is ready. He exclaims, “That’s huge for someone who can’t see below their shoulders!”
“He’s comfort during the vertigo episode. He just comes and lays down by me. That’s nice that I can feel him. I can feel his heavy breath and he’ll put his muzzle next to me. It’s nice to have him there and to know where he’s at so I won’t get up and trip over him because I know he’s literally right there.”
The “James” in Uno James was bestowed upon this sweet assistance dog when Mark’s brother, Barry James, passed away. Uno provided comfort to Barry before he passed, as well as to Mark when he is going through the grieving process. “Uno is a sensitive dog. When my brother was sick and after he died – I think he sensed I needed the comfort. He was always nudging me. He’s a great comfort. I didn’t realize I needed it that much living alone, but it’s great to have him here because he’s a wonderful companion.” Mark says that Barry was truly proud and happy to know Uno was gifted his middle name.
While reflecting on how Uno James has impacted his life, Mark says that there is no way he could have afforded an assistance dog with all of the necessary training if it weren’t for generous donors. He says, “It’s huge to people like me. You see where dogs like Uno James help literally every single day. Not just at certain times but all day. They also help with emotional well-being and maybe even their spiritual wellbeing. Uno James is awesome and he’s a good buddy. Thank you!”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home – Dawn Johnson & Family
Puppy Raiser – The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone
Special Thanks – Maggie & Tim Darsow