Bari and Service Dog Anikan

Bari and Service Dog Anikan holding her purse in a mallBari Schlesinger had figured out how to live independently with a severe form of juvenile arthritis called Still’s Disease – except for one major barrier: how to reach the charger each night for the power wheelchair she relied on daily. In 1987, a Canine Companions service dog named Carol helped overcome this obstacle, showing Bari that possibilities in life were endless with a service dog’s help. Bari has had decades of independence with five life-saving service dogs: Carol, Takai, Wickford, Axel and Anikan.

“Carol was the catalyst for me always asking myself, ‘What else can I do?” she recalls.

For the past 8 years, 10-year-old Service Dog Anikan has been profoundly life-changing for Bari. Anikan assists with many complex tasks like Carol did so long ago; retrieving the charger for her wheelchair, getting items out of the freezer and grabbing her debit card from the ATM. Bari feels Anikan intuitively knows what she needs and his constant presence is empowering.

“I haven’t been without a service dog for more than a few days since 1987,” Bari says. “And those few days without Anikan were eye-opening. I felt like I was thrown back 30 years to life before I got Carol.”

Bari worried she would drop her purse or tools for her personal care that Anikan skillfully retrieves. Bari knows that Anikan is slowing down and will need to retire in the coming years. Soon, she will be handed the leash of her sixth service dog, a youthful and eager new caregiver with half a dozen sets of paws to fill.

“It’s always sad to retire your dog and start fresh,” Bari remarks. “Retiring a dog like Anikan with that intuition and everything I’ve taught him – I didn’t even know a dog like Anikan existed.”

With her five service dogs helping along the way, Bari is independent and active in her community in ways she couldn’t have imagined in the early 1980s. Thanks to Carol’s gift – showing her that anything is possible with a service dog – Bari can tackle whatever challenge or opportunity comes with a highly-skilled canine partner.