Service animals help support people with MS

Service animals help support people with MS

By Bobbie (Barbara) J. Severson, ARNP
ARNP, Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center

On October 21, 2013 the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish Neuroscience Institute hosted a meet and greet with Buddy Hayes, national speaker for Canine Companions for Independence.  Buddy, as she prefers to be called, is a military veteran and the owner of Stanford, a handsome Labrador Retriever service dog given to her by Canine Companions for Independence.

Canine Companions for Independence is the largest national nonprofit organization provider of assistance dogs in the United States.  Canine Companions proudly provides assistance dogs to people in need completely free of charge.  They use hundreds of volunteers around the country and an expert team of professionals to deliver a service that allows people to continue living active and independent lives with the help of a professionally trained dog.

Stanford has been taught to make Buddy’s life easier and safer.  For example, Stanford can help open doors, turn lights on/off, pick up dropped items, and pull her lightweight wheelchair if needed.  One of the very practical lessons a dog is taught is to go to the bathroom on verbal command.  To obtain a service dog, one must complete an application process, be screened for eligibility, and receive training to ensure both you and your dog are a good match. 

Buddy cannot imagine her life without Stanford.  He is allowed to stay with Buddy in the hospital, accompany her to medical appointments, and travel with her on airplanes.  As an owner, Buddy must ensure that Stanford obtain regular veterinarian check-ups and that she care for him as much as he cares for her.  Their relationship is a win-win.

The MS Center at Swedish Medical Center provides weekly pet therapy for patients and their families and friends. Click here to learn more.

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