Ilia: A Special Service DogPublished December 23, 2008
Cole Massie, a ten-year old boy may have Cerebral Palsy, but he also has all the support a disabled youngster needs. His best friend is his very special Lab/ Golden retriever mix, Iila. Iila, a specially trained service dog, helps Cole, who was at one time completely wheelchair bound, fetching items that he needs, and opening and closing doors for him. But Iila's greatest contribution is his healing touch as he cheers him on during physical therapy sessions, accompanying him to doctors' appointments and keeping him company when he receives difficult medical procedures. His mom, Michelle Massie says that, "He calms, inspires and motivates my son far better than anyone ever has." Cole describes his relationship with Iila as "my furry brother and best friend, and a serious bed hog", Iila hangs out with Cole while he listens to a Harry Potter CD, and helps clean him by licking his face and arms while he is taking a bath. This is one extremely loving and intuitive pooch. Several months ago, three years after Cole and Iila became a team, brought together by the nonprofit organization, Canine Companions for Independence, Cole underwent a difficult surgery which permitted him to use his feet and free him of his wheelchair. At first, Cole was understandably frightened about the prospect of surgery, but after his mom explained that he would be able to walk Ilia by himself, without the help of his parents or a walker, Cole whispered to Ilia "I will walk you, Ilia. I will walk you." and agreed to the surgery. Cole had to travel a long distance for his surgery, but Ilia went with him to be by his side. Happily, Cole is on his way to being able to walk independently and, of course, Ilia will be right by his side all the way through this process. Service dogs are an invaluable adjunct to healing in so many incredible ways. The bond which develops between the dog and their owner provides many tangible and subtle avenues to recovery that cannot be disputed. Recently Ilia received the ASPCA Dog of the Year as part of the 2008 Humane Awards program at a luncheon this past October, honoring seven other animals and humans with extraordinary stories. Of course this award was the icing on the cake for both Ilia and Cole. What are your thoughts about the benefits of Service animals? Leave a comment and share them with us.
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