testimonies & Stories regaining Functional independence
SERVICE DOG HANDLERS’ Testimonials
“Edison may not be ready to physically support our daughter yet, but the emotional support he provides is priceless. This fall my daughter’s Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia symptoms have become more severe causing a lot of anxiety for all of us, but in the midst of all of it, this brilliant puppy provided by Mobility Service Dogs West Coast Project is giving her more than we ever imagined. We knew that one day he would be able to support her on her dizzy days and help her to walk, but we didn’t even know to wonder about how much joy he would bring on the way there. Edison provides unending entertainment mixed with a lot of hope. Edison is all puppy when his vest is off, stealing things he shouldn’t, teasing our other dogs, and getting into all kinds of misadventures. When his vest is on though he is a steadfast and calm companion. He navigates challenging situations with ease, strolling down hospital hallways and sitting through meetings. We knew training him would be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. He excels at training and my daughter can train him from her bed if she can’t get out of it giving her purpose on days she feels useless. He gives her a new outlet of opportunity to spread awareness of her illness. He also makes something invisible to many, visible which gives us a better sense of safety for her. He brings a smile to everyone’s face when they see him, which makes my daughter very happy. Of course, he is also a silly puppy. Recently she said he makes her laugh to the point of tears every day. Edison may not be ready to give our daughter independence yet, but he has given us all a lot of light, laughter, and hope. We are forever grateful to Mobility Service Dogs West Coast Project.” Heather Hellman, mother, and co-raiser of SDiT Team & Edison, November 27, 2018
UPDATE “Last night Edison was off vest at youth group getting some love from friends when Tabitha got up and started walking toward another room. He barked once, she kept going, he barked again, she kept going, so he got up and went after her. She ignored him, stayed standing and passed out. He has not been trained to bark at her and we have only been able to do minimal scent training for medical alert because she has been constantly symptomatic recently, but he did it and everyone in the room knew that’s what he was trying to do. Once we knew she was ok, she got a collective -Edison told you so- from the group and he got a big celebration. He is brilliant!” Heather Hellman, mother of SDiT Team Tabitha & Edison, May 14, 2019
“Alex's life was changed 11 months ago when he had a devastating car accident where he sustained a spinal cord injury, leaving him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. Alex's life change again when he met his service dog Baldwin. Alex is happier, he loves Baldwin . Baldwin and Alex are ways together. Thank you mobility dogs westside project for all do . Janie is a caring person and she really cares for every person who gets a service dog. I can honestly say that the best thing that has happened to Alex was to have Baldwin, his new best friend and service dog.” Natalia Eyler, friend of Alex. Alex, age 28, Spinal Cord Injury, May 2019.
“Tango, almost 10 months old now and I have had him for 3 months old. He came to me from the Mobility Service Dogs West Coast Project. I started out as a puppy raiser with basic skills and knowledge of having dogs. MSD-WCP has provided and given all the support and tools to raise Tango. I have my own disabilities of degenerative spine disease and multiple sclerosis. When I received Tango I was only a few months out of major spine surgeries and healing. I went from wheelchair to walker then a cane and now Tango as a service dog. Tango started responding to me quickly and for such a young age pup I was surprised. Tango is sensitive to my balance and walks on the side that I feel off. He responds to my MS flares and literally gets me up and takes me to the kitchen when I need to eat after medicine and if my body temp is hot he takes off my socks. He gets me out and about and if I ever feel anxiety he leans into me to comfort. Tango likes to help whenever he can and tries to carry things for me. He has helped build back my muscle strength just by playing together. We are still growing and learning together and much thanks to the team of MSD-WCP for the support and guidance of raising a service dog.” Darlene, Nevada, Multiple sclerosis (MS), May 15, 2019
“Phoebe has become an extension of me, making it possible to be functionally independent. She assisted me carrying everything, even while I am in my wheelchair. She balanced me, carried my purse, and created a gentle fall when I began walking with arm-crutches. As my body changes, creating new difficulties and new challenges, Phoebe evolved with me: because we were a Mobility Team, I could continue moving forward with aplomb. Phoebe is retiring at 11, and Beckett is training up to be my next Mobility Service Dog. He is bigger and will allow me to continue my big, beautiful life with his harness and brilliance. I would be stuck in a wheelchair for life without my Phoebe and Beckett. I am deeply grateful for their energy and love, allowing me to continue vibrant living. They make everything possible, giving me options while extending my day in my wheelchair or walking with supportive tools.” Janie, California, 61, Spinal Cord Injury.
“Mobility Service Dog-West Coast Project came into my life during a very hard time. My first service dog unexpectedly retired and I was a new mom. I found them by chance when they were building up their name and I am forever grateful for that chance. The founders worked hard with me personally to help me figure out exactly what I need, I opted to train alongside my dog from the start to help build a bond and have done so with their encouragement and guidance! I trained my first service dog from puppyhood and found it an extremely rewarding process that resulted in an unbreakable bond. No matter the size of the bump in the road we encounter, they have trainers on standby for advice and support, and the board is constantly keeping in touch so never once have I felt like I am doing this on my own. It’s truly been a community experience even amongst the other teams through their organization.
Frankie, my mobility Service Dog in training, is my pride and joy. He has brought to me more independence than I have ever experienced not only through the tasks he has been trained but also in bringing me confidence knowing that he can aid me if I suddenly am in need of assistance while out in public. Nobody believes that he is still in training with how incredible his behavior and demeanor is and that’s not something I could have done on my own! I am not sure if I will ever find a way to thank all the love and support I’ve received from this amazing organization but not only am I left with an amazing assistance animal, but I also now have lifelong family-like support!” Jae, age 27, Southern California, Spinal Cord Injury, May 2019
“For the past few years I have been limited by my mobility, and unable to live a full and functional life. Although Hamilton and I have only been together for a few short weeks, he has already learned to notify me when something is not “right” with my body. We are learning to walk together as one unit, which not only amazes me, but gives me such hope and a newfound determination. I look forward to continuing our training and the many adventures I know we will have! To be able to leave my home without the worry of falling is a gift that I can’t thank MSD-WCP enough for! I feel so fortunate and so very blessed!” Danielle, age 50, Arkansas, Chronic illnesses, May 2019.
“Jasper has made my life AMAZING. Since having him, I have not fallen. I was falling 2-3 times a week. He helps me retrieve items I drop, helps me open the door, and supports me while walking. His training, personality, and assistance are truly irreplaceable. I can’t imagine life without my Jasper.” Jane, California, age 67, Rheumatoid Arthritis
”I met Arthur on a warm December night, when his local trainer brought him over.Like an Angel with wings, descending the heavens in a Jan Van Eyck masterpiece,Arthur entered my life, my soul, my entire reason for being. His big, beautiful, brown eyes looked into my sad eyes and knew immediately what he had to do. Become my shadow, even when the sun not shining. There was no grace period. No checking eachother out. It was instantaneous, as was the joy he brought to me and all that surrounds me. I’ve raised so many dogs I can’t count them all. I was four or five when I got my first puppy, a Collie, of course it was the nineteen fifties. Never have I ever met a K9 like Arthur. The bond that formed between us, is almost frightening. On first encounter, people could not believe we had been together a matter of days, nor could I. He goes everywhere with me. Ubers, cabs, buses, he’s cool with everything, and pandemonium where ever we go. He loves people of all ages, especially children. Did I teach him this. No. I haven’t taught him a thing, except maybe his name, Arthur. This is how he showed up that warm December evening six months ago. He has never left my side, back , front, my heart. Undoubtedly my forever friend. He is a life changer, and has made all the difference in my life and the lives of everyone he meets. What would I have done without Arthur? His beloved friend, caretaker, soulmate, Elliot.” Elliot, California, 64, Poet, Hip & Leg Trauma. May 2019.
“There are so many ways that Pepper has impacted my life. Hiking trails were impossible unless they were flat. With Pepper’s help, I can navigate rocky terrain. He waits for me, assists me at my speed, and makes it possible for me to bring physical fitness and the great outdoors back into my life.” Paul, California, 61, Army Veteran, PTSD and Combat Trauma.
“Charlie gave me back my life! Three years ago, I was in a chair. Fast forward: over spring break, I was able to hike with my family up hills and over snow-covered paths. Charlie assisted me every step of the way, up and back. Charlie has shown me what I am capable of and inspires me to be healthier every day!” Linda, California, Age 51, Car Accident leg and back injuries.
“Grayson is the best. Not only does he help me walk, assist me to avoid falls, and make my life easier, BUT he also gives me the confidence to leave the apartment. With Grayson by my side, I can handle the staring and the questions. I can stand taller, knowing he is with me always. Thank you.” Margaret, California, Age 36 early Multiple Sclerosis.
“Roxie is my companion and life source! I have been wheelchair-bound for six years, due to a motorcycle accident. Since Roxie came into my life, I now have hope and energy. Roxie helps me open doors, enter elevators, and access things I was unable to get in my chair. When people don’t hold the door open, Roxie steps in to make sure I can get through the doorway. She has been a true companion and improves my quality of life daily.” Gregory, California, Age 57, Motorcycle Accident resulting in lower extremity paralysis.
“My wife suffered a spinal cord injury to her lower spine eight years ago. After exhausting all the options available through traditional medicine, medical professionals informed her that, as she continued to degenerate, all they could offer was a wheelchair. I watched my wife create her regimen of biofeedback and meditation to manage her nerve pain. She changed her diet to reduce inflammation and encourage healing. She continued her practice of Yoga, stretches and isometric exercise to strengthen her core and began walking, using arm crutches and Mobility Service Dog Phoebe to offset the atrophy of her leg muscles and regain her mobility. Her strength of spirit, determination, and commitment enabled her to reach a level of healing that astounded both her spine doctor and neurologist. I learned, from observing her, the importance of mindful living, commitment to spiritual practice and the benefit of taking an active role in one's health and well being. Our hope is that, Mobility Service Dogs-West Coast Project, can create an environment where the young and old can take charge of their lives and provide them with the tools to cope with the technological and environmental stresses that confront us every day.” Robert, California, MSD-WCP Founder Janie’s husband.
Volunteers and service dog trainers with Mobility Service Dogs West Coast Project Testimonies on their experiences working with Our Mobilitydog.org community
“My name is Anna and I am a service dog trainer. I had the pleasure of training and preparing Baldwin to be a service dog for Alex, a recent paraplegic. We are currently working on Baldwin's transition to Alex and his new life. Baldwin is an amazing retrieval expert. He is currently helping Alex pick up things that fall since he doesn't have use of his legs. Because of Baldwin, Alex has his independence. Alex has told me that he now has a reason to wake up in the morning and someone to keep him company. He now has independence. Our journey will continue so Alex and Baldwin stay strong together. The job I do makes me feel good knowing that I can help someone gain independence by training a dog to do tasks human needs.” Anna Gilnets, SD Trainer for MSD-WCP, May 2019.
“Working in healthcare for the last 5 years as a physical therapy assistant, I have seen a need for change. It took me a while to figure out what that change was, but when I was introduced to the Mobility Service Dogs-West Coast Project, I knew that was it. My original goal was to run my own rehab clinic one day. Now, my focus has shifted and I am going to school and working full time to prepare for my future. My new goal is to bring healthcare and mobility dogs together in a clinical setting. As a board member my contributions to the MSD-WCP are marketing and focusing on educating the community about the project. Before I graduate next year, we are to present our Signature Project. I took the opportunity to make my Signature Project about educating people in three different settings about mobility service dogs. I am confident this work is going to change many lives and with the help of MSD-WCP, I wish to make my goals a reality.” Lindsay, age 27, California, Physical Therapy Assistant, May 2019.
“I was blessed in meeting Janie Heinrich about a year ago on what became a rescue mission of poodles. I had gone to California to pick up a poodle who was being released from the breeder's care and was to bring some "puppies" back to Washington State and to their puppy handlers. As it turns out, the puppies were not puppies and definitely feral. Our group ended up taking all the dogs we could from the situation and Janie (MSD-WCP) helped in placing the adults (2 of which I have). This organization is incredible. Knowledgeable and caring. I have since had an opportunity to foster one of their dogs preparing him for his final human in need. Problems that I thought insurmountable at my end were handled quickly and thoroughly with positive results at the organization's end and Baldwin was placed with a young man who had been paralyzed from waist down and now in a wheelchair. I truly can't give enough praise to MSD-WCP and the work they do to improve mobility in people's lives. Thankful to be part of this team.” Deborah, 65, Washington, Volunteer, May 2019.
CO-FOUNDER JANIE’S STORY
JANIE’S PASSION FOR SERVICE DOG TRAINING COMES DIRECTLY FROM HER BACKGROUND:
In the spring of 2010, a crate fell on Janie Heinrich, changing her life forever. The heavy crate wrecked her shoulder and killed the nerve roots at the base of her spinal column, leaving her unable to walk on her own, or move her left leg without assistance. There was no surgery, fix or cure to change the outcome of the accident. She was told by doctors at the spine, neurology, and pain clinics of three highly respected medical school hospitals that she would need to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life. This was not an acceptable solution for Janie. She refused to believe her life was destined to be bound to a chair.
Instead, she changed her diet; added herbs, essential oils, and daily 90-minute yoga practice; and gathered around her a circle of amazing physical therapists, occupational therapists and a wellness community. Janie taught herself how to walk with arm crutches and with the aid of her Mobility Assistance Service Dog, Phoebe. Since then, she has been living a full and active life, able to go all over the world with the help of her Mobility Service Dog Phoebe both in and out of her wee manual wheelchair. Her yoga practice and swimming keep her body’s core strong and ready for the next adventure. Her husband, Bob, their four children, and five grandchildren keep her on the move and living a very vibrant life!
By December 2016, Phoebe was ready to retire, so Janie started looking for a new Mobility Service Dog. Four service dog organizations wrote her letters of refusals: three because, at 59, she was too old (They want a dog to stay with one handler 8-10 years and assumed that Janie wouldn’t live that long. Little did THEY know!); the fourth organization denied her also because of her age and the fact that she is not a veteran. Janie learned in her research to find a new service dog for herself that two other mobility organizations combined receive about 220 applications a month. About 82% of those who apply are eligible, but only 5% of Mobility Service Dog requests are filled. Janie had no choice but to train another service dog for herself.
After a chance meeting with Ayami Hirogishe when Janie and her new Puppy in Training were out on the town, sharing her story and learning about Ayami’s aunt’s struggles with mobility, Janie knew what she had to do: start her own organization to train Mobility Service Dogs. Janie’s vision is to raise dogs for aging populations and others in need.
Janie knows what she’s talking about: she has trained two Mobility Service Dogs and is currently preparing a third, Beckett. Janie lives a full life, deeply grateful for her Mobility Service Dog who is an extension of her and helps her create functional independence.
SOME AMAZING MOBILITY SERVICE DOGS AND MOBILITY SERVICE DOGS IN TRAINING