for Mobility and Support
originally published in the MSSP newsletter Multa Specs
written by Leslie Crane Rugg
If people with multiple sclerosis (MS) share one goal, it’s to remain independent for as long as possible. That one life quality sustains hope and determination above all else. A major aspect of independence is mobility, often a tricky if difficult maneuver to achieve. Certainly, mechanical aids are available from shoe orthotics to leg braces, from canes and walkers to wheelchairs and motorized scooters. They all offer useful support at some point and in many circumstances.
But life quality means more than the use of props. It means interaction, relationships, communication, contact. So imagine the possibility of maximizing both mobility and support through service dogs trained specifically to respond to people with MS. Imagine Lassie at your side, not only alert and intuitive but prepared to handle issues of balance, fatigue, proprioception, and spasticity. Imagine a collie who not only helps you manage stairs, elevators, sidewalks and curbs, but who also is a stabilizing presence at home. Imagine your best friend at your side wherever you want to go.
Leslie Rappaport of Kings Valley Collies (Kings Valley, OR) has be quietly breeding, raising, and training rough (long coat) and smooth (short coat) collies for mobility and support for 20 years. While selecting and preparing her collies for people with a variety of physical challenges, she specializes in training and matching her collies with MS clients. Leslie is convinced that establishing a partnership with a Mobility collie increases quality of life. She states, “The advantages a Mobility collie provides include safe activity without the risk of drug side effects, ever-present companionship which relieves depression, and an increase in safety, security, and independence.”
Walking with a Mobility Collie
Walking with a Mobility collie opens up a world of opportunities. Leslie’s clients report an increase in their overall strength, cardiovascular health, and range of motion. They also note a decrease in reliance on visual cues for balance, at the same time feeling more stable and secure while exercising or walking, and more capable of proper alignment. For those people with MS who experience spasticity, Mobility collies provide consistency of movement.
People with MS often have difficulty in sensing the relationship between movement and location, since MS can interfere with brain signals sent to arms and legs. Mobility collies help alleviate proprioception and bring a renewed level of awareness to their human partners. Leslie trains her Mobility collies to maintain a consistent working position next to their partners. Continually adjusting to their partners’ movements whether forward or backward, left or right, Mobility collies maintain a constant and steady reference point. While moving subtly, the collies still maintain a working position with their partners, helping them also to maintain balance while walking or standing.
Mobility Collies Support and Stabilize
It can be exhausting for people with MS to execute a relatively simple set of routine motions, much less navigate going to the market or a doctor’s appointment or just a stroll in a park. With a Mobility collie, the fear and the fatigue are minimized. Leslie’s collies have mastered the support, stability, momentum, and control techniques necessary for walking, stopping, or standing still alongside their human partners. Specifically, Mobility collies support and stabilize their partners when descending stairs, while providing forward momentum when going up stairs or curbs. Mobility collies help their partners sustain forward momentum while walking and then control that momentum to make successful turns. Mobility collies lend crucial physical support when their partners stop or stand still.
Mobility Collies Restore Freedom and Confidence
As unbelievable as it seems, the skill set of Kings Valley Collies for Mobility and Support restores freedom and confidence to their MS partners. But believe it! Leslie’s clients come back to Kings Valley time and time again for their next Mobility Collie. And the families and friends of people with MS are equally positively affected. To see examples of the great work done by Leslie, her collies, and her clients, visit her website – www.kingsvalleycollies.com – and her Facebook page. Be sure to watch the video clips of the teams at work and read the service dog stories written by the MS partners themselves.
For information about the cost of a Mobility collie and organizations that help with costs, check out www.gofundme.org and www.modestneeds.org and Oregon’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.