There are all kinds of caregivers. Some are paid for their work but most are not. Most caregivers are family members, sometimes friends, all of whom have two legs. There are also four-legged caregivers, of the canine variety, that give every bit of themselves in service to their handler. They are typically known as service animals. To the person they assist they are more than that. They are an integral part of the disabled person’s life, often becoming an extension of it as they move through their days together.
Maddie is one such canine caregiver. She gives her all in caring for her handler, Tom. Tom is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS. Many people know ALS as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Tom and Maddie have been paired for more than three years. They have a strong bond. She is keyed into his physical and emotional state that is remarkable to witness. Recently, Maddie knew Tom was having difficulty breathing during the night. She woke him up by nudging his hand with her nose. He had a kink in the hose that attaches to his breathing machine. After it was fixed she remained on the floor by him for the remainder of the night. This is how I found her in the morning:
From the very beginning it was evident Tom and Maddie were something special together. It was compelling to watch and document. I photographed them from those early days of first being paired and have continued to do so often. I love sharing my caregiving responsibilities with this four-legged creature.
Many, many people ask us about Maddie when we are out and about in public. They want to know about her work, what she does for Tom, her training, and often they just want to look at her because she is so pretty. If she could talk she would agree she is a beauty. To help her admirers out I have produced a book, Paws at Work, with many photographs and an inside look at their life together.
To purchase a copy of Paws at Work: https://www.createspace.com/6314532
To find out more about ALS: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html
ALS is twice as likely in veterans: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/aam-2014/learn-about-als/military-veterans.html