Military Matters: Service dog assists veteran with peripheral neuropathy

Military Matters

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Dogs can be more than just a loyal pet.

For some members of the military, they can help with everyday tasks.

John Seely spent 28 years in the military, serving in places like Vietnam and Schofield Barracks on Oahu. But it was after retirement when he was faced with a new battle.

“I never heard of the word before, but it’s really a disease of the nerves,” said Seely.

In 1988, he was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.

“And it started off with just a small spot on my leg that was numb and since then, my whole right leg is numb and it’s migrated to my left leg and come up,” said Seely. “And I don’t have balance. My balance is lousy and I really need three points to connect or I’ll lose my spatial orientation.”

Three years ago, Seely was introduced to his “third” point: Eli, a labradoodle assist dog.

“Eli, come out over here, now brace. Brace Eli. Now when I’m sitting in the chair, a low chair, and I can’t get up. The signal does not go from my legs to my brain to my legs, that says ‘John, stand up’. It just doesn’t go there. But once I get started. I can finish. So I position Eli in front of me and he understands this is the brace position. So I really push down on him to stand up.” said Seely.

Eli also helps Seely get items that may have fallen.

“Eli, get it. Now bring. Give.”

Their relationship didn’t start out this way. Seely originally agreed to train Eli, from Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs to help someone else.

“Some of the other dogs once they get older will go onto other skills as needed, such as opening up doors, taking the laundry out of the dryer, taking shoes and clothing off, depending on what the individual needs,” said Susan Lewers.

Susan Lewers created this accredited program 20 years ago. They’ve placed over 150 dog, including nearly 20 to veterans. She said one of the top requests, assists dogs, who can help with PTSD.

“Like the eye contact, one is a PTSD one, or a dog can go and check out a room or go behind and watch their back. Just simple things that make their handlers more comfortable,”

The canines do neurological stimulation exercises when they are three days old. As for Eli, after a year of training with Seely, he became “HIS” assist dog.

“The first thing he’s done he’s made me a lot more patient,” said Seely. “If I have a ball in my hand, he doesn’t say throw it, throw it, I’ll get it. He’s a little more circumspect and a lot of time when I tell him to do something, he knows what I tell him, but he also looks up at me and says let me think about that for just a minute, you know?”

KHON2 asked him, “How would your life be different without Eli, what would your life be like?”

“That’s a good question. I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t give you an honest answer. I don’t think I would be as active as I am. Eli gives me a reason to get up every morning.”

“I can tell you that if I didn’t have Eli, if I lost Eli today, there would be a void in my life,” said Seely.

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