One of William Floyd School District’s social workers, Wendie Der, who has been working for the district for 16 years, suffers from a spinal cord injury she received six years ago, which has also led to severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Last week, to help her with her disability, just as she helps school children every day, she was paired with a service dog from Canine Companions in Medford. Onyx VI, who graduated with Der on Friday, Nov. 4, from The Genesis Center in Medford, will now accompany her to school and help at home every day.
When asked how the new companion will help her with everyday life, she explained that both due to her spinal cord injury and her arthritis, she tends to drop things and knock things over a lot. One of the most basic and helpful things the dog will do, she said, is pick things up for her like a pencil, paper, or even a fork. She also noted that her dog will help her do her job more comfortably.
“The whole idea is for him to help me live my life and do my job more comfortably by reducing the impact act of my disability,” said Der, a Ridge resident, also noting the dog can pull things like a laundry basket and help open and close doors. “These are all life-changing things, things that people take for granted,” she added, noting how grateful she is to Canine Companions.
During the graduation, Der and her dog were one of six in the graduating class. They celebrated by dressing up Onyx VI with a bow tie and, later, a visit to the park. Also, during the ceremony, about 30 puppy raisers turned in their dogs to begin training.
The organization is known for training service dogs for adults, children, and veterans with a variety of disabilities, free of charge to clients. The highly skilled service dogs can retrieve dropped items, alert to important sounds in the environment, interrupt flashbacks, participate in therapies and more.
To learn more about Canine Companions and how they empower people with disabilities to lead more independent lives, visit canine.org.