Posted on Monday December 5, 2011
You’ve Got to be Grateful
Friendly Wheels, Issue 41
Featuring Amigo owner Ron Greif
Growing up, Amigo owner Ron Greif laughingly called his mother the “sergeant” since the doctors told her never to baby him. Today, he still hears her saying, “go to it, kid” when he’s faced with a challenging situation. “You may find yourself in a sticky wicket, but to overcome the sticky wicket, you must believe in yourself.
Born prematurely, lack of oxygen left Ron, 55, with spastic cerebral palsy. His first yellow and black “banana” (Amigo Front Drive), purchased in 1972, was followed by a 4-wheel Amigo rear drive model. Throughout the last 23 years, Ron has been the very active owner of two Amigo RT Express models.
Ron’s Amigo-active lifestyle includes traveling, going to movies, working at PetSmart, and walking his dog, Cello. Cello, however, is no ordinary Chesapeake Chocolate Lab. He is Ron’s fourth trained service dog. Cello helps Ron by:
- opening doors
- getting the phone for Ron to answer or letting him know that the phone is ringing
- bringing the phone to Ron if he’s fallen
“I have a lot of faith … but my dogs have given me my life as I know it today.” Having been with Ron for the last five years, Cello is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Only when Ron gives a certain command does Cello know he can relax.
In the U.S., there are about 15,000 service animals, which include guide dogs, hearing dogs and even seizure response dogs. Service animals perform tasks that their owners cannot, which lessen the effects of their disability. Tasks often include closing/opening doors, turning light switches on/off and picking up small objects.
While it’s not impossible for a pet to be trained as a service animal, they’re often born into the business and raised with a host family for about a year prior to training. Full training begins around the age of two when the dog is placed with a potential owner from four to six months before they are actually teamed as a “match.”
“A trainer worked with me and Cello for two hours per day, six days a week. The routine is very regimented and taken very seriously,” Ron remembers. Ron received Cello from PAWS in Grand Rapids, Mich. As with PAWS, many agencies retain ownership rights of service dogs, keeping the best interest of the dogs as highest priority. Living conditions and welfare of the dogs are inspected and evaluated annually.
Ron is strikingly positive and a truly happy individual. “I am the happiest person that ever was. You’ve got to be grateful.”
For more information about service dogs, or to inquire about obtaining one, visit Paws with a Cause and Service Dog Central. For more information on training your dog to become a service animal, visit Service Dogs America.
Read more Friendly Wheels articles here.