Hawaii service dog shortage

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Dogs can be more than just a loyal pet. For some members of the military, they help with everyday tasks.

John Seely spent 28 years in the military, serving in places like Vietnam and Schofield barracks on Oahu. But, it was after retirement, when he was faced with a new battle.

In 1988, he was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. “I never heard of the word before, but it’s really a disease of the nerves,” says Seely. “And it started off with just a small spot on my leg that was numb and since then, my whole right leg is numb and it’s migrated to my left leg and come up. And I don’t have balance. My balance is lousy and I really need three points to connect or I’ll lose my spatial orientation.”

Three years ago, Seely was introduced to his third point…Eli, a labradoodle assist dog. Their relationship didn’t start out this way. Seely originally agreed to train Eli, from Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs to help someone else.

Susan Lewers created this accredited program 20 years ago. They’ve placed over 150 dogs, including nearly 20 to veterans. She said one of the top requests, is assist dogs, who can help with PTSD. “Like the eye contact one is a PTSD one, or a dog can go and check out a room or go behind and watch their back. Just simple things that make their handlers more comfortable.” The canines do neurological stimulation exercises, starting at three days old.

As for Eli, after a year of training with Seely, he became his assist dog. “I can tell you that if I didn’t have Eli, if I lost Eli today, there would be a void in my life.”

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