Physical Assistance Dogs

Making the Impossible … Possible

service dog opening a door for woman in motorized chairCaroline was 11 years old when she came home from school in tears because she could not keep up with her classmates. A diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy was the last thing her parents expected and by high school Caroline was in a wheelchair full-time.

Donnie was driving home on a snowy evening with poor visibility, unable to see a horse that had broken out of his enclosure and standing in the middle of the road. Donnie hit the horse, which landed on the roof of his car, crushing him inside. Donnie was paralyzed and became a quadriplegic.

Whether a person’s medical condition is caused by an accident or a hereditary disability, a physical assistance dog can open doors (literally and figuratively), and do so much more for a person confined to a wheelchair.

Our dogs are trained to pick up dropped items, retrieve items from the fridge, get help when needed – even pick up the phone when it rings and give it to their person. Daily activities that most of us take for granted can be a major hardship for a person with physical limitations. A service dog can help create greater freedom and independence.

Luke with his physical assistance dog Polar

Luke with his physical assistance dog Polar

In July 2008 I had a catastrophic diving accident that left me a quadriplegic. I went from being an independent 20-year old to someone who was dependent on my family and friends for all of my needs. I heard about Service Dogs of Virginia and decided to apply for a service dog to help me regain some of my independence. I was matched with Polar, a beautiful 3-year old yellow lab, in December 2009. Polar has changed my life dramatically in many ways.

He is my companion, buddy, and friend. He gives me a sense of importance knowing I am the one responsible for taking care of him. He offers me emotional support on my worst days and gives me the confidence to be left alone. Polar opens and shuts doors, takes my sweat shirt and socks off, and picks up my phone and other things I drop throughout the day. I don’t know where I would be today without his loyalty, unconditional love, and the constant entertainment he provides for me on a daily basis with his extraordinary personality. — Luke with his physical assistance dog Polar