John Eliason & Mobility Assistance Dog Gracie
Author: Patti Miller
In life, we are often able to choose to take the path of least resistance. But what if you didn’t get the choice? Imagine for a moment a path lined with obstacles, but not the fun obstacles like inflatable slides, giant swinging foam balls or mud bogs that you crawl through on your belly. No, these obstacles include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), vertigo, social anxiety, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis, and the list continues. No matter your age, medical conditions like these are emotionally debilitating and physically draining. A young man, married, raising three active children never dreamt how twists of fate and fortune would change his life.
John Eliason from Hopkins, Minn. was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago at the age of 34. He struggles with his balance and has neuropathy that causes numbness in his limbs. Extreme temperatures, pressure and humidity can cause inflammation in his body which induces pain flare-ups. One day while John was driving his wife Maria to and from work he noticed Can Do Canines. He was curious about the organization. However, it wasn’t until years later that he realized a Mobility Assist Dog may help him conserve energy, reduce the risk of falling and provide other therapeutic benefits. John decided to take action and apply to Can Do Canines for an assistance dog.
Some may say it was fate. Others may say it was by the grace of God. Either way, Gracie a two-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever from Can Do Canines joined the Eliason family as John’s Mobility Assist Dog.
Like most medical diagnoses for chronic illnesses, treatment and therapy help reduce pain and provide some relief, so patients are able to live a mostly functional life. However, there are often challenges with simple tasks, daily frustrations and additional medical needs as time goes on. For John, neuropathy and vertigo leave him feeling unsteady on his feet. He’s taken more than his fair share of tumbles over the years. With Gracie’s guidance, he is able to steady himself and follow her pace. “I trust her”, he notes, “I know she will slow me down so I don’t fall”. As an additional aide, Gracie is able to pick up just about any item John may need. After all, she’s a Labrador Retriever and picking things up is not only something they enjoy, but it’s rewarding for both Gracie and John!
This winning duo doesn’t stop there! They venture out and about to doctor appointments, family activities, and therapy sessions on a daily basis. John is able to use Gracie as his loyal companion, to ease anxiety in certain situations. “I trust her and know she will always be right by my side,” John says. Loyalty and trust, a combination that will help John keep his independence and thrive.
John lives his life winding his way through obstacles that could be potentially harmful. But he doesn’t get a t-shirt when he finishes his race each day. He gets something better – Gracie! Plus, a life filled with new opportunities, less worry and more joy. Gracie is the best prize anyone facing a lifelong obstacle course can receive!
Thanks to the many volunteers and donors, John and Gracie are a successful team.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Special Thanks – Ron Norton, Mandy Mach, The Inmate Handlers at the Federal Correctional Institution – Sandstone