Rhode Island Monthly Health & Wellness 2016 : Page 8

Your Health. Your Wellness. » SERVICE DOGS | | Veteran John DiRaimo with his service dog, Park. Photo by Nancy Kirsch. “ 6 Rhode Island Monthly | Guide to Health and Wellness 2016 “ I was fearful of going out, and terrifi ed of someone banging into my arm. I lost my spirit. I lost my business and my independence. Continued from page 5 the puppies learn in the prison. NEADS trains prisoners and holds monthly classes for weekend puppy raisers. Each puppy stays with its prisoner trainer and weekend puppy raiser for about twelve to sixteen months before being as-signed to a client. NEADS and other non-profi t service dog organizations, including Canine Assistants and the Guide Dog Foun-dation for the Blind, provide lengthy and in-tensive training before carefully screening and matching dogs with clients. NEADS, for example, creates a client profi le based on an individual’s detailed application and interview, which enables the organization to select the most appropriate dog. “We don’t force a match; it has to be perfect,” says Alyson Cox, NEADS’s manager of communications. During his two-week advanced training with his service dog, Park, at NEADS’s campus in Princeton, Mass., DiRaimo grew to know and love the yellow Labrador. If he didn’t have Park, DiRaimo, of Cranston, confesses, “I’d be dead. Park always knows when I’m not feeling well or having an anxiety attack.” When DiRaimo is depressed, Park is his steadfast companion; when he’s anxious, Park af-fectionately nuzzles him and shields him from confl ict. Other than fatherhood and military service, “Park is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. “Now I have my dog, my responsibility. He takes care of me.” Who would expect a broken wrist to permanently alter a life…for the worse? More than ten years ago, that’s what hap-pened to Shari Levine, then a physically active woman who golfed, swam and was a self-proclaimed “gym rat.” In her pri-vate practice as a muscular therapist, she provided relief and treatment to patients in pain. Then, she became the patient. After her broken wrist failed to heal, doc-tors eventually diagnosed with her Refl ex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which causes constant, excruciating pain and extreme sensitivity to even the lightest caress or breeze. Other than her left thumb, her left hand and arm are completely im-mobile and wholly non-functioning. Al-though Levine has undergone more than a dozen surgeries and consulted numerous specialists, no one has alleviated her pain or offered hope for any improvement in her medical condition. “I was fearful of going out, and terrifi ed of someone banging into my arm,” says Levine of those early years. “I lost my spirit. I lost my business and my independence.” Levin found help through Canine Assis-tants, which required her to complete an application, undergo a home study and ask fi ve people who knew her well to complete personality profi les about her. At Canine Assistants’ Georgia campus, each client meets a few dogs with compatible person-alities and attributes; for example, active dogs meet high-energy individuals. Then, Levine learned, the dog picks the person: Canine Assistants uses the dog’s response to a client to assess who is a good match. Although her service dog, Juno, can’t al-leviate her debilitating pain, she’s bettered Levine’s life and spirits. “If I was hurt and unresponsive, she would…get help,” she says. Juno dramatically increases Levine’s day-to-day independence. Not only does | | Continued on page 8 Shari Levine shakes hands with her service dog, Juno. Photo by Nancy Kirsch.

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