|Michael and Scout|
This is a follow up story about Kristine and Séamus since they were placed together in 2014.
Kristine's journey to a service dog did not start with her own needs. She was reading an article about service dogs and how beneficial they could be for children with autism. They had always been a dog family and she thought this could be a great thing for her son, Michael. After calling around to a few different organizations, Kristine was directed to ICAN and Michael was placed with their first service dog, Scout, when he was 10 years old. Scouts placement with his family opened up a whole world for Michael that his anxiety had previously kept him from enjoying. "We were able to do things that we weren't normally able to do as a family, like go to Disney for vacation or take a trip to the zoo," said Kristine. Scout created a confidence in Michael that had not been there before. He was a part of their family for 8 years and throughout that time Michael grew more independent and Kristine grew to need him more.
Kristine has Multiple Sclerosis and when they first received Scout, she never intended to have him become her service dog. However, as her MS progressed Scout became both her service dog and Michael's. Scout was with their family for 8 years and the family was starting to apply for a successor dog when Scout got sick. He passed away at 10 years of age from cancer.
|Kristine and Séamus at Team Training|
When applying for a successor dog, Kristine was now the one who would need the service dog most of the time. Scout had done his job well and Michael's confidence had grown so that many of the things that would have previously caused him great anxiety, he could now do without needing a service dog by his side. Still, when they were applying for a placement, it was understood that this service dog would still need to do double duty for both Michael and Kristine.
Séamus came to be with his forever family though unconventional means. He was trained by two different organizations, PawPADs and ICAN. PawPADs worked with Séamus during the first part of his life, and taught him many of the skills he knows today. When he came to ICAN the training he received was specialized to Kristine and her needs. "I remember when they placed us with Séamus they told me, "This dog does not like to give kisses," because that was one of the things that Scout did that calmed Michael." Kristine remembers fondly the first time she brought Séamus to the hotel to meet Michael. Michael got down on the ground to greet Séamus and he walked over and immediately started kissing Michael all over his face. It was a perfect fit.
Michael, Séamus and
Michael's Staff Assistant
Now Séamus goes with Kristine everywhere and improves her balance as she walks. Before working with Séamus, she used a walker wherever she would go, but walking with Séamus she is able to walk better and more naturally than she ever did with a walker. "He is keeping me mobile longer." Séamus will pick things up for her when she drops them and helps with deep pressure therapy. When she gives him the cue he will place his front legs over her own and rest there on her lap. This pressure allows Kristine a relief from the pain that she normally experiences throughout the day. Séamus still helps Michael, going with him to doctor's visits or just cuddling for a while, but he spends most of his day by Kristine's side.
"He's just a funny guy," Kristine said. "He does downs (the cue used to tell a dog to lay down) better if he's on a soft surface, like his bed. One day he didn't want to do it on the hard kitchen floor so we laid a little wash cloth down. He laid down right away!" Séamus will play hockey with his metal food dish, pushing it around the kitchen floor in a specific path that only he knows. "We had to get him plastic food dishes so he wouldn't knock all of his food out on the floor."
|Kristine and Séamus|
When asked to describe what it's like to have Séamus, Kristine had this to say: "When people ask, "What does it mean for you to have Séamus?" it is really hard for me to answer that effectively with words. Yes, he makes me more independent; he helps me balance and walk; he helps me picked up dropped items; he helps Michael cope which in turns helps relieve my stress. But to explain what Séamus means to me is like me trying to describe how breathing impacts my life. Breathing just is. Yet it's everything. And that is in an essence Séamus."
To read more stories about how ICAN dogs are changing people's lives, please click here.