By Kelsey Burton
A recent group of service dogs at Medical Mutts graduated April 18. One special guest was Chai, a shelter dog who came to us from Indianapolis Animal Care Services and has been serving as a service dog for his handler, Kathleen Simmonds, since October 2020.
For this graduation, Kathleen and Chai came from Missouri to share their story.
Chai had a rough start to life. He was found chained outside during a brutal winter when he was just a young pup and had to be confiscated by IACS. Due to the cold, the tips of his ears were lost to frostbite. He was scared, hurt and alone, but his life was about to change in a big way.
Our Director of Training, Melissa Morris, came to the shelter and saw the potential in Chai. Even with his traumatic past, it was evident he was meant for great things in his life. After months of extensive training using ethical methods, Chai was finally ready to meet the person he would help.
This is the second service dog Kathleen has received from Medical Mutts as a Diabetic Alert Service Dog. After her first Medical Mutt, Emma, passed away, Kathleen and her family knew she needed a partner to help her manage her diabetes. Like all placements, it took some time for them to learn how to work together. With our continued support and after working and growing together, Chai and Kathleen have shown how life-saving these partnerships can be.
"Chai puts my family at ease as they know I now have a teammate who is helping me," says Kathleen. "In fact, he is faster than my glucose monitor and lets me know about a blood sugar low about 20 minutes earlier than the monitor. Not only does he help me manage my blood sugar levels, but he helped me through a dark time after I lost Emma and during the challenges of being isolated during the pandemic. He gave me a purpose. Additionally, he has given me more self-confidence about living with a disability. Medical Mutts sees the good in shelter dogs like Chai."
That's not the end of the story. Kathleen and her family wanted to bring another dog home to be a buddy to Chai. When they saw a picture of Milo, one of our career change dogs, they knew they needed yet another mutt to join the family. Now Milo and Chai are living the best lives with their new family and Chai is helping give Kathleen and her family a safety net.
It's life-saving partnerships like this that are the backbone of our organization.
Medical Mutts Service Dogs is a non-profit dedicated to successfully partnering homeless dogs with clients with disabilities. Medical Mutts trains rescue dogs as service dogs and promotes collaboration between dogs and people through research, education, and ethical training. The organization works to save dogs, help people, and promote kindness through their service dog training programs.
To learn more about Medical Mutts, visit the organization’s website at www.medicalmutts.org.