Jo Smith and Mobility Assist Dog Winter
By Emma Hage
Jo Smith of Cross Lake, Minnesota has mobility issues as a result of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a heritable peripheral nerve disorder. She began to see her dexterity, balance, and ambulation decline, needing to wear braces on her legs for extra support. Getting around became a challenge. So when Jo realized that an assistance dog could be the help she needed, she reached out to Can Do Canines.
Her pet dog had passed away recently, and Jo was excited about the possibility that a new dog could provide her with companionship and mobility assistance. Jo decidedshe wanted the task of training a dog herself with Can Do Canines guidance. She felt she had found the perfect puppy for the task: a Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever mix named Winter, or Winnie as Jo calls her.
Jo began training Winnie herself, but had to make several sacrifices along the way in order to give Winnie the best training. This included cutting back on volunteer work, community involvement, and activities with her family. “It was more work than anticipated,” said Jo. “But she’s done so well.”
After a year of extensive training and socialization, Jo and Winnie were able to apply for Can Do Canines owner-provided Mobility Assist Dog training. The training program included six months of training with Can Do Canines staff trainers as well as a Can Do Canines field trainer. Winnie is able to help Jo every day by picking up dropped items, opening the door, and supporting Jo as she moves around. “I’m just so impressed by what she can do. She’s a good girl,” said Jo. “Sometimes she just reads me. We’re becoming one! The [help and companionship] she offers is immeasurable.”
Winnie makes it possible for Jo to live an active life by providing her mobility assistance. Jo hopes to use this to show her family, especially those who are also affected by CMT, that disease shouldn’t stop them from doing the things that they want to do.
“It helps my grandkids see that Grandma doesn’t need a wheelchair because she’s got Winnie,” she said. “They’ll see they don’t just have to crawl into a shell and not be out in public.”
Jo is appreciative of the generous volunteers and donors who have played a role in her journey with Winnie. “They don’t realize how much they’re giving to people that have medical issues,” she says. “I’m so grateful that there are those people. I can’t thank all of Can Do Canines enough.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Field Trainer: Barb Schilling
You: Thank you for your donations!