Woman with Paraplegia Regains Independence with Service Dog
by Canine Companions for Independence
04:00 AM, Thursday, August 08
“They open up my world,” explains LaVonne, of Rancho Penasquitos, about her service dogs. Paralyzed in a car accident in 1992, LaVonne went from being an active elementary school principal to spending the majority of five years in the hospital and spinal cord rehabilitation centers. When she got out, she struggled to adapt to life in a wheelchair. That is, until she was matched with Service Dog, Raymond from Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

The main task upon which LaVonne relied on Raymond for help was retrieving dropped objects. “My hands are numb, so I’m always dropping things and I need help constantly – all day long,” explains LaVonne. With Raymond by her side, LaVonne no longer needed as much assistance from other people. It was liberating!

Raymond also came with unexpected benefits. “Before I had Raymond, I required two people to help me get into my wheelchair,” says LaVonne. “I couldn’t hold up my head by myself. I had diabetes and was going on dialysis soon if I didn’t take care of it properly. After I got Raymond, I wanted to take care of him - exercise him and take him for walks. It helped me get my diabetes under control. Now, I can get into the wheelchair with supervision rather than assistance because my upper body strength has improved – just because I wanted to take care of my service dog!”

When Raymond passed away, LaVonne immediately applied for another service dog. In May, Canine Companions matched LaVonne with a dog named Horizon.

LaVonne has rediscovered her independence, thanks to Horizon. “I love to go on walks and go into stores and shop by myself,” says LaVonne. “With Horizon, I can do so many little things independently that I can’t do without having someone with me. I feel so comfortable that Horizon will help me if I need it. Horizon lets me get out more and enjoy my life!”

LaVonne and Horizon graduated together after completing an intense, residential, two-week Team Training course at Canine Companions for Independence in California.  During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. Thanks to Canine Companions’ generous supporters, the dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are provided free of charge. “I thank everyone who supports Canine Companions,” says LaVonne. “You make these miracles happen for us. It is a miracle. Our lives do change for the better!”

About Canine Companions for Independence: Canine Companions for Independence provides highly-trained assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities. Established in 1975, Canine Companions has five regional training centers across the country. Canine Companions is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. For more information, visit www.cci.org or call 1-800-572-BARK.

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