How Service Dogs Can Make a Real Difference in the Life of Someone With SMA

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Service dogs can be a great asset for people living with chronic diseases, including children and adults with SMA.

MORE: How service dogs can benefit people with neuromuscular diseases.

According to this article from the Boston Children’s Hospital, Vivienne, who was diagnosed with SMA just before her second birthday, first met Milka when she was a tiny pup. Vivienne had no idea a regular hippotherapy visit would change her life forever.

Once Vivienne’s therapist put the puppy in her hands, Mom Lara knew there was no turning back. After summoning Dad to the stables and some discussion, the Liedtke family decided that Milka could be trained to work as a service dog for Vivienne.

Lara did all the hard work, training Milka to obey simple commands that would make life easier for her daughter, and for her and her husband. Milka gives Vivienne a sense of independence, as she’s no longer so reliant on her parents and sister to fetch and carry things for her. She can now ask Milka to do things.

In addition, Milka has helped Vivienne befriend other children. Before Milka, the first thing other children noticed about Vivienne was her wheelchair and often asked her what was wrong with her. Now the only questions she gets asked is if they can pet her dog and what her dog’s name is.

MORE: How to talk to your child about their neuromuscular disorder. 

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