The glorious gift of “alone time”
Service dog helps client—and marriage—flourish
Born and raised in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, Kim had always been a free-spirited, independent woman. She rode motorcycles, enjoyed a long career teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children, and delighted in hiking, snowshoeing, and other outdoor activities with her husband, Roger, in the mountains near their home in rural Vermont.
That lifestyle came to an abrupt halt when Kim had a severe reaction to medication that caused inflammation in her brain. She was hospitalized for months, and the episode left her partially paralyzed. Says Kim, “I fully enjoyed an active, strong, independent lifestyle, and it was totally wiped away in my recent ‘life’s chapter.’”
With the passage of time and extensive physical therapy, Kim has been able to set aside her custom-made wheelchair (which she expected to need forever) and get around with a walker, even taking short solo walks on occasion. However, she has difficulty sitting up in bed, getting dressed, picking up dropped items, and performing other tasks that require strength, dexterity, and mobility. Roger has been her full-time caregiver, a responsibility he took on readily and lovingly, but one that required the couple to spend all their time together since he didn’t like to leave Kim alone in case she needed help or fell.
In December 2015, Kim applied for a service dog from FSD, and last spring, she was matched with Nimbus, a white Labrador retriever. During their two-week placement class, Nimbus was trained to assist Kim with her unique needs, including walking on her right side rather than the more traditional left side, due to the greater degree of paralysis on her left side. With Roger proudly cheering on the new team, Kim and Nimbus graduated in June 2019, and the trio returned home to Vermont to start their new lives together.
Today, Nimbus opens doors for Kim, retrieves dropped items, and helps her exercise by lying on her legs while she does sit-ups. When Kim needs help getting out of bed or the shower, she can tell Nimbus to “Find Roger” and he will locate Roger and bring him to her. Nimbus also has been trained to push the button on their medical alert system if Kim says “Find Help.” Kim uses sign language along with her voice to give Nimbus cues, which she believes creates less of an interruption in social situations and has increased his alertness and attentiveness to her. “The connection we share is amazing,” she says.
In addition to assisting Kim with mobility tasks, Nimbus has given Kim and Roger an even more precious gift. Says Kim, “Before having my fabulous service dog, I was unable to have any independent time. This was very debilitating to our lives in many ways. Roger now feels comfortable leaving me home ‘alone’ for a period of time so he can enjoy some much-needed and deserved freedom, knowing that I’m going to be safe and in good company with Nimbus. Having a trusted service dog allows me to enjoy some independence again and is keeping our love and wonderful marriage alive and healthy!”
Kim’s positive attitude, enthusiasm for life, and love for Roger are obvious to anyone who has the pleasure of meeting her—and so are her feelings for Nimbus. “He is my ‘left-hand’ man and I love him! Nimbus is a total blessing!”