Castoff canines

Monday, November 8, 2004

No person wants to be singled out for their differences, especially in junior high school. But Victoria Lowes and her pal, Sami, are getting noticed in positive ways.

Victoria has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around. But lately she's been getting help at school from Sami, her assistance dog adopted from the local animal shelter.

The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri has dozens of dogs -- and cats -- that would make ideal companions for both children and the elderly. Many of the pets abandoned at shelters are there because of behavior problems often related to poor training. But the Lowes family didn't let that stigma stop them from finding a dog that would help their daughter.

The family went to the shelter in search of a dog who could help Victoria gain some independence from her wheelchair. Originally the family wanted to find a dog already trained as an assistance dog but the expense was too great and insurance wouldn't cover the purchase. So they went to the animal shelter and found something better -- a lovable, mixed-breed dog named Sami.

After months of training, the dog has been making her debut at school, helping Victoria with mobility. Victoria and Sami work together three times a day so that the pair can bond and learn how to help each other.

Sami's official training as an assist dog isn't complete until the end of the school year, but the dog has already been a huge help for Victoria. And with the dog's help, Victoria eventually will be able to walk without braces or using a wheelchair to get around school hallways.

It sounds as if Victoria and Sami are a perfect pair -- each dependent on the other. We wish them success as they continue training.

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