Service Dog is Perfect Match for Man with Disability

Article 2444: Service Dog is Valentine’s Day Match for Man with Disability (imageid1)

John and Service Dog Paris IV

Twenty-seven-year-old John Ekman of Riverside was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). His diagnosis has meant a lifetime of physical challenges. “I don’t leave home without a friend or family member,” he explains. Sometimes, his limitations take an emotional toll, as well.

However, recently John’s daily life got a little easier. In February, John was matched with a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Paris IV, a yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, was presented to John on Valentine’s Day with a rose in her mouth. “I love Paris,” John said, after only a week with her. “She’s already changed my life dramatically!”

Paris was trained in about 40 commands to help John with everyday practical tasks. She can tug laundry baskets, open doors using straps attached to latch door handles, activate wheelchair accessible push plates at entrances, push drawers closed, flip light switches and more. John particularly appreciates Paris’ ability to retrieve items off of the floor that he can’t reach. In a pinch, she can bark on command to alert neighbors if John is in trouble.

“She helps me in so many ways,” says John. On top of the practical benefits, Paris gives John an emotional boost. “She loves on me and licks my face,” explains John. “Paris always wants to be petted and played with. She’s just a lot of fun to be around! She’ll play all day.”

John and Paris graduated together after completing an intense, residential, two-week Team Training course at Canine Companions’ Southwest Regional Training Center in Oceanside, California. During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. The dogs are trained and evaluated for two years prior before they are ready to graduate as 24/7 helpers. Thanks to Canine Companions’ generous supporters, the dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are provided free of charge.

“I’m extremely thankful for Paris!” says John.

Contributed by

Barbara Barrow

Canine Companions for Independence
Chief Development Officer
Barbara Barrow is the chief development officer of Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly …

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