Maureen Pranghofer & Mobility Assistance Dog Walter
Author: Jenna Paananen
Maureen Pranghofer and her husband, Paul, reside in Golden Valley, Minn. Maureen is a member of the Minneapolis Scrabble Club and enjoys reading, playing the piano, swimming at the Sister Kenny Institute and volunteering for Can Do Canines. Maureen also served as the President of the Minneapolis Can Do Canines Lions Club.
Born legally blind and with brittle bone disease, Maureen has lived and persevered through more challenges than most people deal with in a lifetime. For instance, Maureen had a portion of her vision restored through cataract surgery in 1980 only to subsequently have both of her eyes removed entirely as a result of an accident. Rather than allow this setback to define her, Maureen used guide dogs to take back her independence. Later on in life, Maureen survived yet another car accident, suffering a broken spine, which further complicated her mobility. So now Maureen uses a power wheelchair with a white cane while out and about and a walker in the home to help her get around.
While Maureen was no stranger to having guide dogs help her stay independent in the earlier stages of her life, after her second accident she realized she needed the help of a Mobility Assist dog. She quickly realized how hard this would be given her visual limitations. She searched for years, calling organizations across the country, with very little hope. Finally, in 2004, Maureen found Can Do Canines. Can Do Canines was the first organization that was willing to work with Maureen and train an assistance dog to perform mobility tasks like opening and closing doors and retrieving dropped items from the ground for Maureen while she used her power wheelchair.
Can Do Canines first paired Maureen with Mobility Assist Dog, Ally in 2004. She then received a successor dog, Bentley in 2011, whose failing health led to an early retirement in 2013. Maureen is now matched with Walter, a two-year-old, black Labrador Retriever. Walter was raised in the prison program at Faribault by inmates. Maureen says, “They just did an awesome job. He is such a wonderful dog.”
“Walter loves his job and he is very helpful!”
Aside from making Maureen’s life safer, she also spoke to the added confidence that Walter has given her. “It is an amazing thing and I can’t even really explain why, because I still have the chair and the white cane, but my confidence – I’m willing to go to places downtown and I can go to the bank and I can go here and there and I didn’t do those things when we didn’t have a dog.”
Walter has also made quite an impression on Maureen’s husband Paul and their close friends. “Paul has fallen in love with him, our friends all love him, and he’s got quite a following on Facebook now. He’s kind of famous.”
Maureen would like all the volunteers and donors of Can Do Canines to know how grateful she is to receive Walter. “Everyone says they are grateful for their dog. You just can’t understand what it means to a person to have a dog to assist you with stuff. There are no words that can express that. Thank you does not seem like it is adequate enough.”
Maureen further explained, “It is not just the security that having an assistance dog brings, and it is not just the confidence that an assistance dog gives, it is also the joy that having an assistance dog brings to your life. It is just such a joy to get up every day because I have this happy, wiggly, thing coming out of his crate wagging his tail, saying ‘it’s another day, yippee!’”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Special Thanks – Linda Wedul, The Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Faribault