A pup to pull up the covers | VailDaily.com

A pup to pull up the covers

Nicole Frey
Kathy Lippert/Vail DailyJanette Lawler gets a big, wet, doggie kiss from her canine companion, Justin.

EDWARDS ” When Melissa Eckdahl gets cold in the middle of the night, she has to wake up her caretaker, Leony Malvar, or one of her daughters to pull up her covers.

An hour later, if Eckdahl is hot, she has to wake up one of the women to help her again. It adds up to fairly sleepless nights sometimes for everyone involved, Eckdahl said.

Eckdahl, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident on Interstate 70 near Wolcott, thinks a service dog will relieve the women in her life of some middle-of-the-night duties and lend Eckdahl a greater sense of independence.

“It’s a task that in many ways sounds simple but is so meaningful,” Eckdahl said. “It would be such a relief to me to have a dog that’s able to pull my blankets up and down at night. It would give me the feeling of self-sufficiency.”

Eckdahl spent months going through the application and interview process with Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit group that provides service dogs to handicapped people. Now all she can do is wait for Canine Companions to train the perfect dog for her needs, which may take up to a year, she said.

In the meantime, Eckdahl will attend the second annual benefit dinner for Canine Companions in Vail, where she’ll be able to meet other service dogs and see what they’re able to do for their masters who are handicapped.

“This is one of the things we do in the valley that really affects people in they valley,” said Anne Roberts, who is helping organize the event. “I’m just really blessed that I’m able to be part of something like this.”

Last year’s inaugural benefit drew in more than 240 people and nearly $70,000 that went toward the nonprofit group. It might sound like a good chunk of cash but it costs between $25,000 and $50,000 to fully train one dog.

For people like Janette Lawler, who was left paralyzed from the neck down after an I-70 car accident on her way to Beaver Creek, what a dog provides is invaluable.

“With Justin, I can go anywhere and do anything,” said Lawler, who has owned yellow Labrador Justin for eight years. “He’s my social bridge. He helps me make friends. When I enter any room full of strangers, the first thing they see is the chair.

But when Justin is there, they don’t see the chair anymore, they only see the dog.”

Justin also has helped Lawler’s mother, Thelma.

“I don’t have to run to open a door for her anymore,” she said. “Justin can do it.”

Heading into retirement, 10-year-old Justin is allowed to take it easy these days. Hanging out with Lawler on a shady patch of grass, he wandered around, begging for tummy rubs, flirting with the other ladies and obliging Lawler with a few sloppy kisses.

Eckdahl watched the pair. She could have a similar relationship soon.

“I think a dog will be more one with me, to provide specific tasks that will help me gain more independence,” Eckdahl said.

The national nonprofit group provides and strains assistance dogs for people with all types of disabilities, except blindness. The dogs are given to handicapped people at a very low cost and funded through private donations. To learn about how to make a donation, apply for a dog or raise a puppy for Canine Companions, go to http://www.cci.org.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User

Trending - News