Naomi and her parents live in Colorado. Adopted from Niger at age 5 and born with schizencephaly, a congenital brain malformation, Naomi relies on a power wheelchair to get around and uses a computerized “talker” to speak. Despite these incredible technologies, Naomi has been dependent on caregivers to meet all her needs. That began to change at age 11 when she was matched with her Canine Companions service dog, a Golden Retriever named Inga.
“It was truly love at first sight – Naomi burst into joyful tears the moment they met,” says Naomi’s mom Stephanie.
Inga plays board games to encourage Naomi’s engagement in therapy, retrieves items that are frequently dropped due to dexterity issues, helps Naomi contribute to family chores and is learning to respond to commands directly from Naomi’s talker. When Naomi is hospitalized, Inga comforts, entertains and provides a social bridge with doctors because she’s there.
But Service Dog Inga’s most valuable skill wasn’t even trained – when Naomi becomes anxious in public, Inga has the uncanny ability to interrupt a panic attack before it happens and draw Naomi back into the moment. Because of Inga, Naomi can live with more independence.