Nu Ja was born with limb differences in her arms and legs, meaning they are either absent or incomplete; however, this rarely slows her down. “Kristi, get!” 9-year-old Nu Ja excitedly tells her new assistance dog. With a wagging tail, assistance dog Kristi retrieves Nu Ja’s lunchbox from the kitchen counter and then carries it down the hall so Nu Ja can put her lunch in her book bag. As an expertly-trained assistance dog, Kristi performs commands that help Nu Ja be more independent every day.
Learning about Canine Companions
Over the years, Nu Ja’s parents had discussed getting an assistance dog. They learned that costs could be high and wait times lengthy. After moving to Northern California, Nu Ja’s mom, Jessica, met a gentleman and his Canine Companions service dog at a park. After talking with him and learning more about Canine Companions, they applied for a dog. Nu Ja was matched with Skilled Companion Kristi in September 2018. Skilled Companion teams are three-part teams: the recipient, the canine and an adult, typically a parent or guardian, who facilitates the handling process, manages team safety and ensures the dog’s daily needs are met.
The perfect match
Kristi is a perfect match for Nu Ja’s independent disposition and outgoing personality. She helps Nu Ja conserve energy and enables her to do more things on her own, without relying on her parents or siblings for help. Everyday after school, Kristi pulls Nu Ja’s book bag into the house using the “tug” command. Then Nu Ja gives Kristi her empty lunchbox to put back onto the kitchen counter for the following morning. Since being matched last fall, Kristi has adapted incredibly well to Nu Ja’s specific needs. Kristi has learned to deliver dropped items to Nu Ja’s shoulder, instead of to a hand or lap, like Canine Companions assistance dogs are typically taught. Nu Ja says, “Kristi is my best friend.”
Whether helping her get ready for school, accompanying her to physical therapy or attending Girl Scout troop outings, Kristi provides Nu Ja a helping paw. “Kristi is Nu Ja’s helper and companion,” says Jessica, “but even more than that, she’s an ally — a reminder that none of us are in it alone.”