Like many ten-year-old girls, Zoe has been involved with horseback-riding, swimming, and gymnastics. She does well in school, has two loving parents, Cindi and Pat, and an admirable, protective older sister.
Unlike many other girls her age, Zoe lives with a Traumatic Brain Injury, due to a stroke she had at birth. Because of this, Zoe has slow motor-planning, loss of short-term memory, and a lack of social skills. This impacts her interaction with other peers her age, as well as causes her anxiety when she is alone.

Cindi and Pat learned of the Assistance Dogs program through The Ability Center. In her letter to ADAI, Cindi wrote:
“We as a family truly feel that a therapy dog trained to be calm and comforting would be a blessing for Zoe.”

IMG_0219She went on to share her hope that a therapy dog would be a great help with increasing her vocabulary by giving her a loyal friend with whom she could talk. She also feels Zoe would gain a sense of pride and responsibility from caring for a dog.

Enter Chuck, a two-year-old golden retriever. Zoe received Chuck at ADAI’s Spring Graduation in May 2015. For both Zoe and Chuck, progress was made before Team Training was even over. From the start, they made a great duo, working hard getting to know each other. Zoe did a great job learning all of his commands, and walking him all by herself. During the training, it became evident Zoe was using her own problem solving skills as she worked with her new dog. Instead of Zoe always looking to her parents for reassurance, she was able to exercise her own judgment in ways to care for Chuck.

As she becomes more familiar with Chuck and the commands, Zoe’s confidence grows. Previous to Team Training, Cindi had noted Zoe was frequently distracted by things. Chuck now has Zoe’s full attention and focus. At home, he is usually found by her side. They play outside and spend time together relaxing. He has quickly become an important and valued member of the family, joining Zoe and her parents at her sisters’ soccer tournaments and on weekend trips. Having Chuck in Zoe’s life has helped to ease her parents’ minds – Zoe is never alone. She now has a loyal, constant companion upon whom she can depend. What a gift for both parent and young lady.