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|04-23-03: Teen gets a little help from friend
|By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
St. MARYS - Jon Craft has his hands full coping with many life
challenges but retrieving papers, pencils, books that may fall from his power chair are
the responsibility of his recently acquired canine companion, Evien, a 2-year-old
Labrador/Golden Re-triever mix.
A 2002 graduate of Memorial High School in St. Marys, Craft, 19,
attends two classes (English and abnormal psychology) at Wright State University-Lake
Campus, which will help him toward his goal to become a counselor.
Craft, a smiling, upbeat guy, has cerebral palsy, which limits his
mobility and keeps him in his power-operated chair. But it doesn't limit his dream to help
other people or his affection for his dog.
Evien was raised and trained through Canine Companions for
Independence, a non-profit organization funded by private contributions.
"We call her Evi, and we think her sponsor was the Evien water
people, who put up the money for her training," said Jon's father, Ron, who added a
fully trained service dog is worth about $10,000.
Evi responds to about 50 commands and was paired with Jon Craft for two
weeks of training at CCI's training center in Delaware, Ohio, last November. It was 14
days of intensive schooling including lectures, exams, practice and public outings.
Jon Craft learned that dogs are pack animals and his duty is to learn
to be Evi's alpha (or leader) dog. He also went through several hours of interviews to
determine his needs and capabilities and what type dog would blend well with his
Ron Craft said the puppy training, which is done in Kentucky, serves to
categorize the dogs as to strengths and weaknesses.
"Some pups don't do well with a wheelchair and some may not work
out with a power chair," Ron Craft told The Daily Standard at his St. Marys home.
Ability to focus is of prime importance as a service dog who may take
it in his mind to suddenly chase a squirrel is ousted from the program and becomes a
release dog; and, there's a long list of those who want a release dog.
Evi, of course, doesn't have those attention problems. In fact, when
she's working, she's all work.
As the Crafts talked with the newspaper, Evi laid beside Jon's chair
relaxed but at the ready. The family cat trooped back and forth trying to get up a game of
chase with Evi, but the dog was on the job.
"When we put on her service vest, she knows she's working and she
stays right with Jon. When the vest comes off she knows there's playtime coming and she's
ready," Jon Craft's mother, Margene, said.
CCI dogs are free of charge to those who receive them and there's a
waiting list of about two years.
But, they're worth the wait because of the tremendous companionship a
dog can provide. Companionship is the most important part of having a dog, Jon Craft said.
But the dog also can do amazing things like pick up a pencil, a credit
card or a piece of paper and return the item to "alpha dog."
"Of course, that piece of paper could be a little soggy, so there
could be some drying time," Margene Craft said.
One retrieval that appeals particularly to men and boys is the TV
If Jon drops it, Evi picks it up in her mouth and drops it in his lap,
then sits calmly beside him no matter what show he's got on the tube.
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