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woman with his service dog

Stories

Kara and Jersey, Summer 2021 Graduates

December 28, 2021

Kara with her service dog

Kara is very passionate about her family and her career. She has been happily married for 11 years, and has three incredible sons. Kara teaches preschool to children ages three to five, and works every day to impact her students’ lives in a positive way. Days can be challenging though as Kara encounters symptoms from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), on a daily basis.

As Kara grew into a young adult, her health steadily declined. She would experience fainting episodes daily, migraines, fatigue, and many other symptoms. It wasn’t until 2016 that Kara finally learned POTS was the cause for all of this and the symptoms made it difficult for her to teach, parent, and complete daily life activities. When she started experiencing symptoms even with the help of medication, Kara knew something needed to change. She couldn’t keep fainting and risk injuring herself. She was ready to apply for a canine partner with hope that a service dog would change her life.

Kara first met Jersey in April 2021. After a few minutes of working with her, Jersey began alerting Kara by preventing her from walking further. It wasn’t until she began to feel dizzy that she knew it was Jersey’s method of alerting. After that first visit together, the whole trip back home to Ohio, Kara could not stop thinking about Jersey and all of the possibilities that being partnered with her could bring.

Since graduating in Summer 2021, Jersey continues to assist Kara in many ways. Jersey alerts Kara of her presyncope symptoms and warns her of an upcoming episode. Bending over is a huge trigger and can cause extreme dizziness and fainting, so Jersey will retrieve and carry items for Kara, and even help clean up after her toddler. When Kara has a migraine Jersey will turn off the lights, and when Kara is fatigued she will use Jersey’s harness to conserve energy.

Kara and Jersey’s connection and the way that they work together has grown exponentially. The two can be around many distractions, as they are when she takes her kids to their sports practices, and Jersey’s main focus is always Kara. Kara has learned how to trust and listen to Jersey and what her different alerts mean. Standing still and not budging, nudging, pawing, and the biggest and most urgent alert – tugging on Kara’s shirt to indicate she needs to lie down before she loses consciousness.

“She’s my best friend” explains Kara. “It was so hard before—- when my disability was mostly ‘invisible’ and no one could truly understand how I felt. But she does. She always does. She understands when my body isn’t doing what’s ‘normal’. She’s one of my biggest blessings. And I am forever grateful for her. I can’t thank CPL enough for increasing my independence and making me feel safe when I stand up and get out of my bed each and every day”.

Jersey has indeed changed Kara’s life, but she’s changed her family’s lives as well. It has been scary for Kara’s husband and sons to watch her faint and constantly worry about her safety. Having Jersey around allows them to feel safe when Kara leaves the house alone. Kara adds, “She’s brought more awareness to what I go through on a daily basis to my friends and family”.

With the help of Jersey, Kara continues to impact her student’s lives. Kara and Jersey have taught the children about inclusion, celebrating their differences, and have expanded their conversations about disabilities. Kara was matched with the perfect service dog for her – one that works every day to make a difference in the lives of those around her.