Dianne Ward and Mobility Assistance Dog Yoda
By Sarah Lennander
In 2006, Dianne developed Guillain-Barre syndrome which left her with residual balance problems and weakness, increasing her risk of falling. Everyday activities that most people don’t think twice about (carrying books up the stairs or turning around to place a cup of coffee on the table) become a potential danger for someone who struggles with balance.
Dianne fell and broke her leg in the fall; before that she had never broken a bone or had any serious injuries. “After [breaking my leg] I was really afraid of being alone and losing my independence,” she says.
While attending physical therapy, her therapists urged her to look into an assistance dog and recommended Can Do Canines. “I was really not sure if it … would be … something I could use,” Dianne remembers, “or if I had enough need.” Fast forward to October 2016 when Dianne began her journey with Can Do Canines. She applied for a Mobility Assistance Dog and was soon matched with Yoda, a black Labrador Retriever.
With Yoda in her life, Dianne is able to live more independently. They go everywhere together: the grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants, and the library. Just because Dianne and Yoda graduated from Can Do Canines doesn’t mean they’re done learning. Yoda will continue to learn to work in new places, and Dianne will learn to combine multiple skills into new tasks.
Yoda has literally and figuratively opened doors for Dianne. As a Mobility Assistance Dog he helps Dianne with all sorts of things that help her live with less fear of getting hurt. When it’s laundry day, Yoda is there to tug the basket where it needs to go and grab items inside to hand to Dianne. At the end of the day when she wants to kick off her shoes and socks—Yoda is there to tug them off. And if Dianne does happen to fall, Yoda knows to alert the nearest person and bring them back to her.
“We’ve just had a lot of good laughs,” Dianne says of her time with Yoda. “[The Can Do Canines] training and consistency and affection just shows in the finished animal. He just couldn’t have gotten this way without all that,” she says. “Thank you.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: The Hendrickson family
Puppy Raiser: The inmate handlers at Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone
Special Thanks: The Merkel family and the Goodman family