Christmas, Ben Carson, Canine Assistance and CAREing Paws

Posted by: West Georgia Eye Care Center in Frontpage Article on December 18, 2015

Each Christmas, the WGECC staff honor our doctors with a collective gift. Last year, we made a donation to the literacy-promoting Ben Carson Scholarship Fund. We presented each doctor with an autographed copy of one of Dr. Carson’s books, and in turn Dr. Carson sent a video message to our doctors.

This year, we continued the New York Times bestseller book trend, gifting our doctors with a signed copy of Through a Dog’s Eyes by Jennifer Arnold. This book is a poignant personal tale of loss, vision, and loyal service dogs.

While still a young girl, Arnold was diagnosed with acute MS. She was wheelchair-bound by the time she was 16. Her father, a successful ophthalmologist in Alpharetta, Georgia, searched for every available resource to help his bright, active daughter. After researching the specialized roles of service dogs, he requested canine assistance. To his dismay, he was told there were no agencies in the Southeast to train and place service dogs. He would have to find another solution. His remedy for that roadblock? Fueled by love and a close-to-home battle with disability, Arnold’s father founded Canine Assistance in his native Georgia in 1981.

Tragically, just three weeks after the organization’s first planning meeting, he was killed by a drunk driver.

But his dream remained. A decade later, after much perseverance in the face of many obstacles, Arnold and her mother re-opened the program, and Canine Assistance became an agency that now places over 100 dogs a year to worthy recipients. These wonderful dogs open doors both literally and metaphorically, encouraging independence and socialization for their wheelchair-dependent owners.

It takes an estimated $20,000 to train a service dog. But Canine Assistance never charges the recipient, and all costs–including lifetime veterinary care–are covered by donations.

With this incredible backstory in mind, it was a great pleasure for the staff of WGECC to make a donation to Canine Assistants in honor of our doctors! We presented Through a Dog’s Eyes at our annual Christmas party, and enjoyed a special appearance by a service dog, Choa, and her owner, Stuart Pope. Pope is a nursing professor at Auburn University, where Choa is a well-loved presence in pet assistant therapy courses. Pope is also the founder of CAREing PAWS, a premier service dog group that leads the field in human-animal therapeutic interactions.