Naomi and Chadds

November 9, 2017
Naomi Hess and Chadds 2017-06-17 b

Naomi and Chadds

As a 17 year old girl with a 4.0 grade point average, numerous extra-curricular activities, and dreams of going to college, Naomi’s life is building with excitement. She is determined to reach her goals and navigate the world with confidence and independence.

Naomi was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy called Congenital Fiber Type Disproportion. She wasn’t able to walk until the age of five, and only with the assistance of leg braces. Naomi works hard to maintain her ability to walk, but she does tire more quickly than others. This requires her to use a wheelchair. Despite her intelligence and outgoing personality, she says, “My wheelchair makes me stand out in a crowd.”

But, Naomi is not one to let anything hold her back. She says, “Honestly, I feel as though my disease itself has not severely limited my capabilities. My bigger challenges have come from my surgeries.” Naomi underwent two surgeries in one year. The first to correct the positioning of her feet and the second to correct the severe scoliosis in her spine. The spinal fusion limited Naomi’s ability to bend over and sit on the floor. This makes it uncomfortable and nearly impossible for her to do things like sit up in bed, bend over to pick up dropped items, or get dressed and undressed each day without someone’s help.

She learned about Canine Partners for Life at the Abilities Expo in Washington DC. Naomi was familiar with service dogs, but wasn’t really looking for one until she saw a CPL graduate demonstrate the skills that could change her life. Always one to do her research, Naomi looked into various service dog organizations before choosing CPL. Many had restrictions on the age of applicants. CPL is one of the few organizations that places full service dogs with individuals as young as 12. She also appreciated CPL’s commitment to follow up and graduate support, which would be beneficial when she returned to school.

To regain the independence she had prior to her surgeries and to assist with day-to-day tasks, Naomi made the decision to apply for a service dog. In her application she said, “I drop things frequently. I have always been nervous about what might happen if I fell and had no way to call for help. A service dog could get my phone. A service dog could also give me emotional support and allow me to have a friend with me everywhere I go.”

In the spring of 2017, Canine Partners for Life matched Naomi with a sweet yellow Labrador named Chadds. The two began CPL’s Team Training process in June. The bond was evident from the start. Chadds frequently laid with his upper body sprawled across Naomi’s lap throughout the three weeks.

Naomi’s determination and confidence served her well while learning to work with Chadds. She never shied away from difficult tasks and activities. When others struggled with trimming their dog’s nails, Naomi dove right in without fear. Chadds supported her confidence throughout training as he drew public attention away from her wheelchair and on to him. Chadds now assists Naomi by picking up dropped items, helping tug clothing on and off, opening doors, helping with her laundry by putting clothes in and taking clothes out of the washer and dryer, and getting help from another person if needed. One of Naomi’s biggest fears was tested when, shortly after Team Training, Naomi dropped her phone while alone in a dressing room. But, she wasn’t truly alone; Chadds was there to help. He retrieved her phone from the floor avoiding a potentially dangerous situation.

Since graduating with Chadds in June, the two have been to sleepaway camp, attended a concert, visited Disney World, started taking driver’s education courses, and have entered Naomi’s senior year of high school. Naomi created a video for her classmates educating them about service dogs and what to expect now that Chadds has entered the student body. Chadds even got his own picture in the yearbook! He accompanies her to the dark room for her photography class and enjoys their time spent volunteering at the senior center and library. He’s enjoying going on college interviews. Though, sometimes he can be heard snoring through class. There is no doubt that college and a career in teaching are Naomi’s most focused goals. She has concentrated her efforts on the skills which Chadds will use to help her be independent when she gets there.

Click here to see the video Naomi created to inform her classmates about how to properly interact with her service dog, Chadds.

Click here to see Naomi’s video which she created to tell classmates about how to interact with her service dog, Chadds.