NEW HOPE, Minn. — We all have a special connection with our dogs, but for Bella Andrade and Blaine, it’s just different.
“She’s granted me so much independence, it’s unbelievable,” Bella said.
Bella was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when she was just a toddler. She’s now a senior in high school, but has spent most of her life in a wheelchair, waiting for others to help her. She didn't like to be home alone or go out on her own because of it.
“I relied a lot on my parents and my brother, who is amazing," Bella said.
She needed help opening doors and drawers and when she dropped things, which was often, she says. But all of that changed in 2017 when Blaine arrived from Can Do Canines.
The organization provides service dogs to people like Bella with mobility assistance, or diabetes, seizures, hearing assistance and children with autism-- and they do it free of charge. The program raises the dogs from puppies and even runs a training program in seven prisons in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which has proven to be beneficial for everyone involved.
“Can Do Canines really helps people with disabilities become more independent so that they can be who they really want to be,” Bella said.
For Bella, that means going off to college, far away, at Arizona State University. A biology major on a premed track, she says. And Blaine has given Bella the confidence to achieve that dream-- oh, and mom too.
“This is what kids do her age and I'm glad she feels empowered and comfortable to do that," said Bella’s mom, Melissa Andrade.
Can Do Canines was started right here in Minnesota and has certified over 750 teams since it began. That's a whole lot of lives like Bella's changed.
“I think it's so cool that so many people will get the opportunity to have a dog and become the best version of themselves,” Bella said.
This year the Can Do Canines Fetching Ball is virtual. It's Saturday, February 20th. You can take part in the event, learn more about the organization, or simply donate to help others receive a service dog.