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Sophia is a disabled little 5-year-old girl who has spinal muscular atrophy and has asked for a service dog through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The Make-A-Wish people contacted Tammie and Robert Rogers of DarnFar Ranch, and they were able to make Sophia’s wish come true through their Committed Canine Inc., which trains and places service dogs with those who need them.
Sophia’s parents, Dave and Kathy, and the Rogers, consented to share this special Christmas story about Sophia and Tony, her dog.
Sophia was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when she was just a baby. Now, she is a beautiful little girl who will be 6 years old in February.
Sophia is in the worst of the four stages of the disease. She is unable to sit in a wheelchair and is confined to a geri-chair. Though she is restricted in muscular abilities, her smile and countenance are radiant and contagious.
Children who are disabled lose not only their mobility, but also their independence in everyday activities and matters that all other children take for granted.
When asked what she wished for the most, she said she wanted a service dog to help her retrieve fallen objects and to be her constant companion. Most importantly, Sophia wanted an orange dog named “Tony.” Her favorite color is orange.
The Make-A-Wish people contacted Tammie and Robert, who accepted the challenge to find an orange dog for Sophia, and the search began in August.
“I got a phone call – apparently they had used an Internet search in Illinois for service dogs. The two big criteria were ‘How long would it take?’ and ‘Could you deliver the dog?,’ because Sophia can’t travel, because of her illness,” Tammie said.
Tammie learned the trip would take about four hours, but she knew of the town. “It’s hard for us to travel,” she said, “but we took the assignment and knew we would figure it out.”
So the search was on.
“I got a call from Sophia’s dad, because it is important in training a service dog to know what the dog will need to do,” Tammie said.
And to Sophia’s dad, it was important that Sophia had a “buddy,” because she doesn’t get out of the house very much.
There is always an adult taking care of Sophia, but there is also a desire and a need to be able to do some things for yourself … and a buddy to be there for you. With atrophy of the muscles, there is a tendency to drop things
Tony is handsome, 1-year-old golden retriever who, of course, has shades of orange in his coat, just as Sophia wanted. And it seems that Sophia is just who Tony has been looking for.
Tony, before becoming a service dog, was a pet in a family with little girls. When circumstances did not allow for the family to keep a dog, they gave him up.
When Tammie and Robert began the search for a well-adjusted, social, 10-18-month-old male golden retriever or Labrador retriever. Many avenues were followed, and they traveled to Ohio to acquire Tony in September.
“First,” Tammie said, “Tony needed to learn that barking in the car and pulling on the leash were no longer acceptable. From then on, he received additional training, including excellent manners.”
Tony is now trained to retrieve fallen objects for Sophia, turn light switches off and on, alert an adult if a medical device alarm sounds, and more.
As there are different alert tones for different devices, Robert is training Tony to respond to the proper tone on Sophia’s alert device.
He will go to the adult and nudge his or her knee when the alarm sounds. Tammie explained that barking would cause too much excitement.
Sometimes Sophia’s arm will fall to her side in the chair, and she is unable to raise it. Tony will be trained in some way to nudge her arm back up.
Two Christmas Wishes Coming True
Tammie and Robert had noticed that when around people, Tony seemed to scan the crowd, as if he was looking for someone. They believe he was looking for the little girl from his former home.
Tammie said the first time she took him to the library for the children’s reading program, he looked over at some little girls, as if searching, “Is that my girl?”
Tony will again have a little girl of his own – Sophia.
Sophia wants and needs an orange dog, a buddy all of her own, Tony. They will be together in time for Christmas this year, fulfilling each other’s wishes.
It is Christmas time, and it seems that this match was made in Heaven…in time for Christmas…through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Tammie and Robert’s Committed Canine INC service dog program.
And thanks to Tony’s former family who unselfishly gave Tony to the proper people, rather than just abandon him along a roadside.)
For more information about the program that helped Sophia, go online to www.commitedcannine.org.