Pets bring help, hope to those with disabilitiesAt Mr. D’s Bar and Grill last Tuesday, People with Disabilities for Change, a Duluth advocacy and fellowship group, let the night go to the dogs.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
At Mr. D’s Bar and Grill last Tuesday, People with Disabilities for Change, a Duluth advocacy and fellowship group, let the night go to the dogs.
“I’m insulin-diabetic on an insulin pump,” said Kim Storm, volunteer program director with Northland Angel Dogs program, a new initiative supported by People with Disabilities for Change. The program promotes the integration of service dogs into the daily life and therapy regimens of disabled persons. “When I go too low with my sugars, my dog, Lilly, will wake me up in the middle of the night if she has to.”
Lilly, a Chihuahua service dog, attended the silent auction fundraiser with Storm and about 40 other people. Lilly’s sense of smell allows her to detect physiological changes in Storm’s body and breath when an insulin decline begins. Lilly alerts Storm to an oncoming diabetic problem by nuzzling her face, pawing on her hair and head, or barking occasionally.
Storm spends her volunteer hours educating disabled people within the community to help them learn more about what service dogs can do.
Ralph Johnson was born with spina bifida. He has
been active in People with Disabilities for Change for about 10 years and attended the fundraiser.
“It’s an exciting group. We’re going in the direction of involving service dogs now,” he said. “They can open doors and shades and offer whatever type of assistance people with disabilities need.”
“I wish we would have had dogs to help me,” said
Beverly Strongitharm, now in a wheelchair.
Strongitharm has suffered from the effects of polio since the age of 13, when she fell, then struggled to walk again for over a year.
“There were lots of struggles. They made me what I am today; I’m very independent and everything,” Strongitharm said. “But it sure would have been nice to have a service dog when I dropped something. Now, the dogs, they’ll run and pick things up for people and everything. Sometimes, I had to just leave things because I couldn’t get it. It’s just neat that the dogs can do all the different things they can do.”
Strongitharm keeps a bag of milk bones near her wheelchair for service dogs.
“I love dogs and they love me. I carry milk bones with me all the time because the dogs expect it from me.”
Julia Mattson is the new volunteer executive director of People with Disabilities for Change. She noted that during the past 20 years of operation, the organization has focused mostly on physical accessibility issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Now, we want people to be aware that there’s a large group of people out there with disabilities who want to be fully involved in the community,” Mattson said. “It can take only one car accident and a fully functioning person can have a disability. Every year this event is better. We’re getting the word out more all the time. So it feels good.”
To learn more, go to www.pdc-northland.org or visit the group’s Facebook page.