When describing David, his mom Lisa is quick to tell you how funny, creative and smart he is. He also has mitochondrial disorder and hereditary spastic paraplegia, which has made his childhood anything but typical. These two progressive genetic disorders prevent David from being able to walk, talk or move on his own. He uses a communication device, which enables him to express his charm and wit, “but David is often isolated and has missed years’ worth of school due to surgeries, medical complications and illnesses,” says Lisa.

A great fit

“Assistance dogs are trained to help children, adults and veterans with disabilities lead a life of enhanced independence.”

Then a four-legged assistant came into his life. During a two-week training with his mom alongside, David was matched with Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog Irina and learned how to work with her as a team. “Irina helps pick things up, opens and closes doors and drawers, and breaks down social barriers,” says Lisa. “I was so impressed with the Canine Companions instructors’ ability to match dogs with recipients. Irina is definitely the perfect fit for David.”

A skilled helper

Assistance dogs like Irina are trained in more than 40 commands to help children, adults and veterans with disabilities lead a life of enhanced independence. These highly skilled assistance dogs have important jobs, from picking up a pencil and turning on lights to helping carry Christmas presents from under the tree and so much more.

Sometimes the best gift doesn’t come in a box, but with a cold nose and a wagging tail. This holiday season, give the gift of independence to someone in need and give a dog a job.