Getting older is not easy, and it's even more difficult when a person is stricken with a debilitating disease like Parkinson's.
For people with disabilities, even the simple tasks like walking can be a struggle.
Grace might be the best thing that's happened to Pat Portsche in the last five years. Portsche lost both her husband and daughter to cancer in 2008 and, within that same year, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
"Your mind tells you you want to take these steps but, in my case, it's the left foot that doesn't always want to take that step at that time," Portsche said.
That's one area service dogs can help with and one organization, Paws for Freedom, trains its dogs specifically for people who use wheelchairs.
Portsche is in training and getting to know Grace, who could become her service dog.
The gentle black lab will improve Portsche's quality of life and give her son, who takes care of her, peace of mind.
"I've come home a few times and she's been on the floor saying, ‘hey could you help me up please?' and I think, ‘there's a way the dog can help pull people up,'" Mike Portsche said.
The service dog won't just give Pat Portsche a companion, it'll also help her maintain her balance. The dogs are trained to walk with a person's gait.
Service dogs with Paws for Freedom also learn other tasks, specifically to help people in wheelchairs.
They learn to help people with their socks and turning on and off lights. Retrieving items is often their biggest task.
"If Pat were to fall and Mike were across the house and couldn't hear her, the dog could go alert Mike by nudging his hand, then the dog would bring him to her," said Lea Ann Shearer, the founder of Paws for Freedom.
At $5,000, the service dogs don't come cheap and they aren't covered by insurance.
Financially strapped Pat Portsche needs to find the money by the end of next week to get the dog and she is asking for your help.
"I hope that by her being able to keep some independence intact, it'll keep her more happy," Mike Portsche.
"With all the support that we've had, I really want to say thank you to everyone who has helped thus far. I can't thank you enough. I certainly plan to do our part to give back in other ways once this is said and done," he said.
If you'd like to learn more about Paws for Freedom click here, or if you'd like to help Pat Portsche get her dog click here.
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