Tortilla Is My Perfect Match

Smiling man in a yellow tshirt sits beneath a tree with his arm around his yellow lab service dog wearing a blue service vestSan Francisco Bay Area resident Arash Bayatmakou was always extremely active – constantly riding his bike around town, hiking and backpacking in the mountains, playing soccer and exploring the outdoors.

Arash’s life changed in 2012 when he broke his neck after falling from a third-story balcony, resulting in a spinal cord injury. Arash went from hiking California’s beautiful John Muir Trail to waking up in Northern California’s John Muir Hospital. While Arash now uses a wheelchair for mobility, he continues to enjoy the active lifestyle he loves.

In 2018, Arash was matched – free of charge – with Canine Companions Service Dog Tortilla. Tortilla is expertly trained in 45 commands to empower Arash to lead life with greater independence. Tortilla was bred for a calm temperament and exceptional health, raised to be comfortable in any public environment and professionally trained in a set of physical tasks.

“Since I get dressed in bed every day, I used to have to reach down on the floor to grab my shoes and socks off the ground and then struggle to get back up into sitting up in bed,” Arash says. “Now, I just call for Tortilla, and he comes running in and grabs my shoes and socks for me.”

A writer, speaker and advocate for people with spinal cord injuries, Arash lives with his wife, Brita, and their two young children. Arash enjoys time with family, runs a non-profit, works on his physical rehabilitation and swims with his wife in the chilly San Francisco Bay.

Tortilla picks up dropped items for Arash, opens and closes doors and drawers, and even pulls him in his manual wheelchair, an invaluable skill that helps protect Arash’s shoulders from overuse injury. Tortilla adapted immediately when Arash and Brita’s children were born and is sweet, caring and cheerful with them. Tortilla also offers constant companionship. He happily helps Arash with many everyday needs with a cold nose, a warm heart and a wagging tail. Together, Arash and Tortilla make a remarkable team.