Payton and Public Access Service Dog Whitt
My name is Payton, I am 18 years old, and I was recently partnered with the most handsome, loyal, and all around amazing golden retriever, Whitt. At five years old, I was diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disorder known as Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT) which makes the muscles in my hands, legs, and feet weaker. In turn, activities such as walking, balancing, stairs, or anything else that requires strength or balance is difficult for me.
Growing up, I have been lucky to have great friends, teachers, and family willing to help me with these activities. However, as I got older and closer to college, I wanted to be more independent. After some research, my parents and I decided that a service dog would be a good fit. I have only had Whitt for a few months, but he has already made a world of a difference for me.
Having Whitt by my side gives me more confidence to explore and expand my comfort zone. He may not cure my CMT, but he does eliminate some of the barriers it creates and allows me to participate more in life. I wanted to share just a few stories of how he has already done this:
At the end of every year, my high school has an event called "Field Day." This is a day in which the whole school spends time on the sports fields watching and participating in athletic activities. However, because of the uneven, hilly terrain of the fields and my bad balance, for my first three years of high school, I was unable to participate. However, this changed when I got Whitt. Whitt is able to help me with my balance via a harness. Because of him, I was able to participate in my senior year Field Day and had a blast. It was the first time I had ever been on the fields without holding on to my friends or family for support. It felt incredible to be independent and able to hang out with my friends and participate in an activity I never thought possible. I couldn't have done it without him; Whitt was absolutely incredible! He ignored all the balls being thrown and the many sounds and smells and focused on helping me! He sure got a lot of ball play after that day!
In addition to helping me navigate Field Day, Whitt also assisted me at my high school graduation ceremony. At the commencement, students receive their diplomas and then carry it up and down the stairs to the stage multiple times. However, since holding the handrail and/or Whitt is essential for me when navigating stairs, also holding the diploma would make this activity difficult. Before I got Whitt I would have had to rely on a classmate or teacher to carry this for me. However, Whitt was more than happy to do this job and allowed me to feel confident, independent, and less nervous. Plus, he looked SO handsome in his tie and cuff links! :-)
These are just a couple examples of the amazing difference Whitt has made thus far. Everyday, I discover new activities I never thought I would be able to participate in. A couple weeks ago, I climbed my first set of stairs without railings. I used to worry about going to new places for fear of encountering stairs without rails or uneven ground. Now, I don't hesitate when given an opportunity to visit somewhere new because I know that whatever physical obstacles I encounter, I have him by my side to help. But above all the physical assistance Whitt provides, I am so thankful for his companionship. I have never been a morning person, but I wake up everyday excited to get Whitt out of his kennel to play with and love on him. Whitt and I have a special relationship and I can't wait to see it continue to grow stronger as time passes. I'm excited about our future adventures together and can't wait to experience life with him by my side.
Brandon and Home Service Dog Hazel
Some of our CHAMP clients have extensive medical expenses or other obligations that can make it challenging to pay for the added expense of having a service dog. For this reason, CHAMP created our Client Angel Fund which is available to clients who need assistance with their service dog’s care or medical bills.
Your charitable donations make a difference in many of our clients’ lives, before and after the placement of a specially trained service dog.
Matt, the dad of one of our clients, states
“Our son Brandon has Muscular Dystrophy. CHAMP provided a service dog for him, free-of-charge when he was 9 years old. Now he is 19. He and Hazel are best friends and we do not know what he would do without her. Hazel needs special food and medicine to keep her healthy. CHAMP helps cover the costs for these items and for her yearly exams through the Client Angel Fund. Without this help, we wouldn’t be able to afford the best care and nutrition for Hazel so she can provide the needed services for our son. Thank you for your support of this program.”
Natalie and Home Service Dog Bentley
Natalie is a joyful and active 9 year old girl who is in the third grade in Monroe County, IL. Last September, Natalie completed a triathlon through St. Louis Children’s Hospital in which she rode a bike, swam and walked with the assistance of her walker. Natalie loves horses, enjoys taking horseback riding lessons and she frequently invites her friends to her home for play dates.
Bentley, a gentle 2 year old Golden Retriever, was raised by Puppies with Purpose (PWP), our puppy raising program at the University of Missouri in Columbia (Mizzou). Dr. Terri Tucker-Warhover, a veterinarian, is the Director of PWP and works with students who raise puppies to become CHAMP Service Dogs-in-Training. Bentley received his formal training and developed his skills through the CHAMP prison program, a win-win partnership with the Missouri Department of Corrections, at a women’s prison in Vandalia, MO.
Julie, Natalie’s mom, describes the special bond that has developed between Natalie and Bentley:
“CHAMP has given our daughter a special friend. Bentley came into our house and added such joy. We love him and appreciate what he is doing for our daughter. He is by her side, always. Bentley helps Natalie by picking up items she needs and he helps her sit more securely on the floor. Natalie wants to be independent, but because she is physically disabled she has to rely on others to help her with everything.
Bentley is Natalie’s dog and she brushes him, tells him where she wants him to sit, and she “tucks” him into his crate beside her bed each night. Most importantly, Bentley has brought purpose and responsibility to Natalie’s life. Their relationship will grow and change and we are all looking forward to it. Thank you, CHAMP, for helping Natalie and our entire family. Bentley is such a gift and we love him.”