OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – Assistance dogs can help with a variety of health matters. For one man living with a genetic disorder, his new best friend has given him back his independence.
Zeego is a two-year-old labrador, golden retriever mix who can respond to more than 40 commands, all to help out his friend Matt Lafleur.
“He’s not a very active or hyper dog but I love that because that matches my lifestyle,” Lafleur said.
Lafleur has Friedrich’s Ataxia, a genetic disorder that causes difficulty walking, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs and impaired speech. He’s confined to a wheelchair.
“Our hand coordination is not what it used to be. We end up dropping everything. With Zeego, all I have to say is ‘get’ and he’ll pick up things I drop, like keys or my phone,” Lafleur said.
Zeego picks up things, opens doors and even turns on and off the light switches. It’s been a long process getting Zeego, with Matt applying to Canine Companions for Independence two years ago.
“They breed and train dogs based on their temperament, based on their willingness to serve in so as you go has been in training since he was born,” Lafleur said.
Lafleur said Zeego will start helping him train for races on his recumbent trike. He rides annually in the RideAtaxia race in Dallas. He says it’s nice having a companion with him.
“I don’t necessarily feel guilty that I always ask for help because that is what he is here for and that’s what he does and I’m so grateful,” Lafleur said.
Canine Companions for Independence provides assistance dogs for those with disabilities free of charge.
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