Service Dogs Inc

Dana & Jazz –

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By Dana Merritt
Graduate

I am the mother of five grown children, and a teenager. I am also a grandmother of eight. I have a Master of Science degree in nursing and worked as a family practice nurse practitioner until my Parkinson’s kicked in high gear and I became unable to work as an NP.

I love to swim. It is the only place I feel normal and myself again. I also enjoy painting, which is something that I started to do after the Parkinson’s diagnosis. It helps me to work on my fine motor skills and helps me to relax.

Besides Parkinson’s Diseases, I had a stroke thirteen years ago. I am weak on

After a fall, I would often lay on the ground for hours until someone came home, often injured and with a broken bone.

one side, and have tremors in my hands as well as dystonia (a movement disorder in which your muscles contract involuntarily, causing repetitive or twisting movements). These two things make it really hard to hold onto everyday items such as: keys, phones, remotes, pens, etc.

Unfortunately when I bend over I have hypotension and often find myself waking up on the floor from a fall. I also walk in a crooked manner from the weakness and drag a foot that causes me to trip, I had brain surgery in 2017, and have had some unexpected complications from it that have left me at times unable to move or talk.

Before I got my Service Dogs Jazz, I dropped my keys or phone numerous times while getting back in my car and had to wait for a kind stranger to walk by and retrieve them for me. I have a bed rail. One night, I dropped the remote. As I tried to reach it, I hit my head on my bedside table and had to go to the emergency room for treatment.

After a fall, I would often lay on the ground for hours until someone came home, often injured and with a broken bone. I have had to ask random strangers to help me open the bathroom door while eating out, as it was too heavy. I have had to rely on my thirteen year old son for assistance, something no mother wants to do.  All the falls made my family feel very nervous about me going out to the store by myself or at home alone.

I feel like a new person after partnering with Jazz. I don’t feel helpless and afraid of going out in public by myself or being at home alone because I
know she is there for me.

I wanted a Service Dog because I felt like it could help me to retrieve those things that I was asking strangers and my family to get when I dropped something. I didn’t just drop one thing in a week, but dropped items repeatedly such as my car keys daily and then when when handed the keys, drop them again. I felt very dependent on everyone, and before had been a very independent person, able to go for a drive to the store and be alone at home without everyone worrying about me. The falls were the scariest part, and the fear of no one being around to help me up or get help. I felt like a service dog could help me to maybe at least get in a sitting position on the floor and get a phone that was needed. I also hoped the dog would be able to help me by picking items up off the floor thus preventing the hypotension and falls.

I chose Service Dogs, Inc. because they are a great group of people who see the value in a dog from a shelter. Those dogs that they go test and put into the program really want to work and please their partner. They are very loyal, and happy to have a person that loves them. The other organizations that
train service dogs want you to buy a purebred dog from them, and then they charge you for the training. It is impossible for someone on social security to afford.

SDI training is ongoing. They don’t just drop dogs off with you and say, “here it is, now its yours “.  The other organizations’ training program seems to be at their place only and then finished. SDI comes into home and on public outings with the new team, to make sure there are not any issues with your dog and you, and provides support ongoing if something does come up. They care about the people they help and the dogs, and they are will pay for
all the cost of training your new partner.

I had seen Jazz before at the training center when I was volunteering there. She had the most amazing eyes and disposition.  I really hoped to be matched with her.  When the SDI trainers brought her out for Matching, it was instant love. She looked at me and I knew we were meant to be a team.

The trainers and other staff were incredible. They teach the dogs everything that you could possibly need the dog to learn, and then they teach you how carry out the cues and rewards for the behaviors.

Sarah Bond was our in home trainer. She was amazing. She picked up on small things that I was doing that might confuse Jazz, which is critical for your team. I was overwhelmed at first and unsure of myself. Then Jazz and I just clicked after a few weeks and I knew we were a team.

Jazz picks my keys up over and over. She will give them to me only for me to drop them again. She never tires of the repeated drops in a row. Jazz pulled me off the ground when I fell after only being with me for a few weeks. She goes and gets a special tie to pull me up. She brings me the house phone to call someone if needed. I haven’t had to call anyone or ask anyone for help since she
came in my life.

She also has an uncanny way of knowing when I’m not doing so well physically. We have taught her to lean into my weak side when I’m standing. She also comes and stands in front of me if I seem of balance.

Jazz can learn anything! She gets on my side when I’m carrying clothes, picks up the ones I drop and brings me the entire basket to fold. She opens doors, closes doors, closes drawers so I don’t have to reach down, picks up anything I drop such as remotes, and canes. She can bring my walker to me and walks beside me anywhere I go in the house at anytime, even 4:00 am when she appears to be asleep but jumps up when I get out of the bed. She can also pull my shoes off, pick them up from the floor and hand them to me and she can help me pull my sweater or shirt off.

I feel like a new person after partnering with Jazz. I don’t feel helpless and afraid of going out in public by myself or being at home alone because I know she is there for me. My husband doesn’t have to call home while he is working or take me places after work for fear that I might fall or be sitting by the car waiting for someone to help me get keys.

I say she is my left arm and leg, because she is. She not only supports that side that is weak and helps me walk in a straighter more efficient way, but gets this worried look on her face when ever she thinks I may be having problems. She hasn’t been wrong yet.

She is my partner and I adore and love her very much. I know that I can always count on her and that is worth more than all the gold in the world. With Jazz, I can get back to being mom, granny, and wife and not someone my family has to take care of.

There are not words to tell you what getting Jazz has meant to me, and how very thankful I am to everyone who donated to help pay for our training. What you did was change a life.

My family had gotten so used to doing things for me that when I first got her her, it was an adjustment for them as well.  I wasn’t as needy anymore, and they had to get use that.  My husband will say, “I can help you with that”, and I tell him “No, Jazz and I got it”. which is a amazing feeling. She is my partner, and my best buddy. She goes everywhere with me.

I am not depressed anymore, nor do I feel like a huge burden on my husband and son. Jazz makes me happy just looking up at me with those eyes, and giving me her nose to kiss. I cannot explain it completely, but she is more than just a dog, but a part of my heart now.

There are not words to tell you what getting Jazz has meant to me, and how very thankful I am to everyone who donated to help pay for our training. What you did was change a life.  I am whole again and it’s because of your  sponsorship and SDI’s gift for finding just the right dog for the right person. I will be eternally thankful for the gift you have given me in Jazz.