The concept of “love at first sight” is a cliché often reserved for fairy tales and overly sentimental romantic comedies, not real life. But for Brea and Gregg, nothing could be truer. Brea’s father, Cedar, still recalls the first time they set eyes on Gregg, during a meet-and-match session early last summer at Can Do Canine’s headquarters.
“We went in to meet a couple of dogs and Gregg immediately began responding to Brea’s communication device giving commands,” he marvels. “It was really cool to see. He was completely engaged with her and she with him.”
Brea has cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone. Cedar and Julie had never considered a mobility-assist dog for Brea—until an employee at Kids’ Abilities, where Brea goes for physical therapy, recommended Can Do Canines.
While Brea’s sisters, Quinn (9) and Celia (6) had their hearts set on a guinea pig, Cedar and Julie decided a service dog would be a better fit for their family, especially with Brea desiring more independence. A year later, they went through the application process.
“Gregg has been great for our family,” says Cedar. “It is really nice to have a dog around. We have more confidence in letting Brea go off exploring on her own when she is with him.”
Cedar and Julie are committed to helping Brea become more self-confident and eventually, more autonomous. Gregg is a big part of that effort. While Brea and Gregg have only been together a few months, the family already sees a difference in the way their oldest daughter interacts with the world.
“As their relationship grows, we expect Gregg will play a bigger role in helping her be more self-sufficient,” says Cedar.
Brea uses a portable speech generating device with a state-of-the-art eye tracker to communicate, and it’s how she voices her commands to Gregg.
“Gregg is a very eager helper and loves to work,” Cedar explains. “He picks up things Brea drops and places them on her lap. He can open doors with a tug attached, close doors, activate handicap buttons. He even puts her clothes in the hamper.”
Gregg especially seems to enjoy carrying Brea’s foot braces from the mudroom to her bedroom in the morning.
So, we know it was love at first sight for Brea and Gregg, but how does the rest of the family feel about the new member of their pack?
“I was super impressed with Gregg from the beginning,” Cedar admits. “He is a great-looking dog. When he walked into the room to meet Brea, I thought to myself ‘I hope we get a dog like him!’ But it was love at first sight for Brea. She was so excited to match with him.”
Cedar is quick to recommend a service dog to anyone with mobility issues. “Not only does a dog help with tasks, but a dog also helps remove the stigma around the person it’s helping. What I mean by that is people are more willing to talk to you when you have a dog.”
Brea and Gregg were just one pair of the 23 teams that began working together last winter. For every pair we train, the world becomes a kinder, gentler, easier-to- navigate place for our clients.