A Better Life Thanks To Girl’s Furry Friend

Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - October 06, 2010
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Emily and Molly Nilsen with their newest family member, Sarah III, a companion/service dog. Photo courtesy of Canine Companions for Independence.

Aiea’s Molly Nilsen has been receiving assistance from a special companion.

Nilsen was born with spina bifida, a disease that affects the spine, and therefore cannot walk without the aid of crutches. Thanks to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a nonprofit organization that offers its services free of charge, Nilsen now has a four-legged friend named Sarah III to help her with important daily tasks.

Sarah, a golden Labrador retriever, went through a nine-month training course where she learned 40 commands so that she can offer assistance to Nilsen by doing practical things like turning on light switches, retrieving various objects and opening doors.

“(Sarah) makes my life better,” says Nilsen, who loves animals and dreams of one day being a dog trainer or veterinarian. “The nicknames I gave her are Silly Sarah and Sarah Superstar.”

To prepare for her new companion, Nilsen and her mother, Emily, traveled to California earlier this year to get to know Sarah during a two-week training course.

“Team training was like a dream vacation,” said Emily. “We loved meeting all the dogs and others with disabilities.”

As she prepares to undergo surgery, Nilsen has been getting to know Sarah, who will be in the hospital to aid her recovery.

And by having Sarah by her side, Nilsen will be provided with plenty of companionship and assistance, which, according to CCI, “reduces the reliance on other people to complete simple daily tasks” and therefore “boosts confidence and feelings of self-sufficiency.”


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