SERVICE DOG HANDLERS’ Testimonials
“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 Melvin, 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.
“ My service dog braces me when I am weak and wobbly. He helps me walk for longer than I could on my own, retrieves items I have dropped or items on the counter when I’m unable to get up and get them on my own. He gets my husband to come help me when I’ve fallen and hurt myself. Having a service dog has given me the confidence to be independent, to know that, when I’m out alone, I’ve got an extra set of eyes on me and a dog that, even on my worst days, is nothing but excited to be a shoulder to lean on. It’s allowed my husband to take up a full-time job and know that I’m safe. It’s truly given me my life back.” Jae, California, 26, Spinal Cord Injury.
“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
“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.
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