HealthLinks Charleston May/June 2022

www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com | 89 There is a well-known quote that says, “Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend never owned a dog.” This quote rings true loud and clear for Erin Danzer, a 23-year-old woman living in Oceanside, California. Danzer was born with an extremely rare genetic medical condition known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. As a result of her condition, Erin uses a wheelchair and has limited mobility in many areas of her body, including her arms and legs. Danzer decided to begin the process of obtaining a service dog as her condition progressed. Due to her limited range of motion, she experienced difficulties with opening doors, picking up objects from the floor and other basic activities of daily living. “After I began using a wheelchair full-time, I noticed these things became basically impossible for me to achieve on my own,” Danzer said. “I didn’t like the idea of having a caregiver or family member following me around all the time, so I decided to research service dogs and how they might be able to help me.” Danzer obtained her service dog, Pine, through Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs free of charge to individuals with disabilities. Pine was trained to assist Danzer with the specific tasks she needs assistance with, including turning lights on and off. “He even helps me pay for things when I’m out if I can’t reach the register,” Danzer said. “Eventually, as my FOP progresses, I’ll be able to utilize him for more tasks that I’ll need help with down the road.” Although Pine is trained as a service dog as opposed to a therapy dog, he also helps Danzer with the nonphysical aspects of her life, including emotional support and companionship. If Danzer is having a difficult day or struggling emotionally, she turns to her dog as a source of comfort. “Pine has a huge personality,” she said. “Not only does he help me with basic tasks, he also makes me smile and laugh all the time.” In addition to Canine Companions, there are many organizations across the country that provide service dogs and therapy dog services to eligible individuals. One such organization is Paws 2 Care, a volunteer group based in South Carolina. Paws 2 Care was founded by Sherry Anderson, who started the group nearly 30 years ago. During that period, Anderson and her staff of volunteers have brought their therapy dogs to visit with individuals in hospitals, schools, retirement homes and hospice facilities. SERVICE DOGS HELP IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE By Holly M. LaPrade