In my line of work I meet ALOT of people. Over the years I've made some wonderful friends with whom I share my love of dogs. There is however, one family that has come to be very special to me and I wanted to share their story.
In April 2007 I became a Puppy Raiser for Service Dogs of Virginia. I had been raising and training dogs for years, but this would be my first time volunteering for SDV. I had no idea what the future held for Service Dog In Training Polaris (Polar). At 12 weeks old, we had high hopes for him. There are so many mixed emotions when you're a puppy raiser. You worry that you'll become so attached you won't be able to say goodbye. You hope that all the hard work will pay off and your puppy will complete their training and be placed. It's a labor or love for everyone involved.
Polar completed his training and was placed in December 2009 with Luke Morris. Luke, 22, of Standardsville, Va., sustained an incomplete C-5 spinal cord injury (SCI) in July 2008 when he dove into a river he’d dove into a hundred times before. Luke is paralyzed from the chest down. He has no movement in his fingers or hands, but can lift his wrists using his wrist flexor muscles.
But he has found ways to continue doing the things he loves, like hunting and mud bogging in his
four-wheel drive truck. Having Polar at his side has made all the difference in the world, he says. Polar helps Luke in many ways, including opening and closing doors, taking off his sweatshirt and socks, and picking things up he drops.
On December 5, 2010 I had the honor of attending Polar and Lukes Graduation in Charlottesville Virginia. My husband John and I spent our first day in Virginia visiting Luke and Polar. We had not seen Polar since his return to Charlottesville in March 2008. It was a thrilling moment to see Polar after all this time, no longer a puppy but a working Service Dog. There is so much emotion, we were so happy to see Polar, after all we raised him from a small puppy, but now he is all grown up and has a new life. We were equally as thrilled to meet Luke and his family. From the time Polar had been placed with Luke I become Face Book Friends with his Mom Linda. We communicated via Face Book sharing stories and pictures and she has always affirmed that all our hard work was worth it. When Linda speaks about Luke and Polar and the bond between them, I can hear the joy in her voice. When I met Linda in person I felt as if we had been friends for years. We will forever be connected to the Morris Family through the wonderful and amazing Polar.
Since our visit to Charlottesville a year ago there are new and exciting things to report. Linda became a Puppy Raiser for Service Dogs of Virginia. She wanted to give back to the organization that helped her son. This is no small task, raising and training a service dog is hard work and requires a minimum 1 year commitment. Linda is a business owner, wife and mother of 2 and cares for Luke, who requires 24/7 care.
Luke wanted to share his wonderful dog with people in similar situations as himself so he and Polar completed formal testing and became a Registerd Therapy Dog Team in July 2011. Luke and Polar visit patients at Health South Rehabilitation Center at the University of Virginia. They visit seniors and patients who have suffered similar spinal cord injuries.
To say that I am in awe of this family would be an understatement. They have shown me how one rises above their own hardship and finds it in their hearts to 'pay it forward'.
I know that living with a spinal cord injury is not only life changing but can be financially draining as not all of Lukes medicals needs are covered by insurance. There are wheelchair repairs, transportation expenses, medical care and expenses for Polar such as food, vet care and equipment. At the time of Lukes accident a Special Needs Trust was established to help with equipment and therapy Luke needs for ongoing therapies and to aid in his day-to-day care. The Trust also allows the family to care for Polar and meet all of his needs.
To help with ongoing expenses K9 Home School is going to donate 10% of all proceeds for the entire 2012 calendar year. For every class, private lesson, behavior consultation and workshop we offer, we will donate 10% to Lukes Special Needs Trust. All donations will be made to the Commonwealth Community Trust of Virginia, http://www.commonwealthcommunitytrust.org/ If you would like to make a personal donation, please forward it to:
Commonwealth Community Trust
P.O. Box 29408
Richmond, VA 23242-0408
Be sure to include LUKE MORRIS in the memo section on your check.