Stress is hard on everyone. It can cause such problems as headaches, sleep problems, or even chest pains, but for some people like Jacie, stress can be even more debilitating, leading to more severe health issues.
A full plate
Jacie is a junior in college, majoring in biology and premed. Such ambitious goals are certainly tough for anyone, but they’re especially difficult for Jacie, who has POTS syndrome—postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
“My heart beats too fast,” she explains. “My specific kind [of POTS] is hypoadrenic, so any stress, or any kind of anxiety, or any change in my mood or my atmosphere, my heart beats really, really fast and my blood pressure just plummets. I have no blood in my head and I pass out or throw up—it just depends on the day. It’s also led to a lot of migraines that just take me totally out for a day or two.”
As if that isn’t challenging enough, she also has maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY): one of the more rare forms of the disease. “It just can’t be the normal kind of diabetes,” she laughs. “It’s the most difficult kind. I have type 2 diabetes, is the best way to explain it, but in someone who is not overweight and it is genetic.”
As one might imagine, the maladies complicate each other. “Between those two things, I just get very shaky,” Jacie says. “It’s hard to hold things, I fall down a lot. I’ve broken my wrist and my thumb, I’ve had concussions. It also creates a lot of brain fog. Sometimes it’s just hard to sit in class.”
In spite of this, Jacie has remained active, playing volleyball, track, and basketball. She even dances to help her balance. But her condition had worsened and she needed help.
The four-legged friend
Jacie first considered an assistance dog when a mentor suggested it. A little research led her to Can Do Canines, and after following the organization’s social media accounts, she decided to apply. Ultimately, she was teamed with Motley, a Black Standard Poodle.
“He was absolutely adorable,” she says of their first meeting. “The thing was his head. He puts his head on people, which is the cutest little thing. I remember seeing a picture of him with three black Labs—I think it was for ‘National Black Dog Day’—and I sent that picture to my mom. She said, ‘Oh my gosh. He’s making me laugh already.’ She printed out said picture, and put it on her desk at [work], telling everyone that this is my dog.”
Even if Motley isn’t actively doing anything, his presence does wonders. “If I don’t need anything, just to have my hand on his head, I can calm down,” Jacie says. “It’s okay. If I’m in the hospital, I feel a lot safer. I am not alone. I just need to calm down a little bit.”
And if things do escalate, Motley is there to help. “He’s very good at getting help if I’m having a flare,” Jacie says. “I had a really, really bad one that put me in the ER, and he ran upstairs then immediately got my mom. And he is really good at nudging me into a room until I do something. He is very aware. I even noticed the night before I had a migraine, and he was very close. He was like, ‘I’m not going to leave you.’”
As a bonus, Motley helps the other members of Jacie’s family who have health issues. For instance, her father is also diabetic, and Motley alerted him when he sensed a problem. “Motley started licking his hand, and he checked his blood sugars and said, ‘Oh yeah. My meter died. You’re right,’” she remembers. “His blood sugar was pretty low. Motley’s very sensitive and very aware.”
A word of thanks
“He’s absolutely amazing,” Jacie says. “He’s so loving, he just really cares about his people, you can tell that he was raised right and that they did a good job.”
The ability to purchase an assistance dog is not possible for most, so getting Motley free of charge was a huge blessing for Jacie. “You’re already paying for so many medical bills and so many other things,” she says. “I had to have surgery on my hand and my nose. Those things really add up. And as someone who is not necessarily paying all their medical bills themselves, just the medication I pay for myself takes a big chunk out of what I have … They’re giving people the opportunity to become their own person again … They’re giving people a great opportunity to change their lives. It takes a weight off my shoulders, and the fact that they were willing to help with that burden is a miracle.”
“I do feel more independent … I don’t have to tell someone where I’m going or have to tell them when I’m leaving because I’m worried I’m going to fall and hurt myself,” she explains. “With [Motley] standing beside me, I just feel safer,” says Jacie. “There’s someone here who understands.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Pat & Dee Dee Heffernan
Special Thanks: Kris Fitzer
Dog Donor: Lake Sai Poodles
You: Thank you for your donations!