We are sad to write that our friend, Chris passed away on June
29, 2009 as a result of her disease. Kirby, her service dog, was
an immense help to her over the past three years. We will remember
her fondly and are proud of the service Kirby provided her.
Chris was a retired school teacher. She taught in the public education system
for 31 years. In 1985, she was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease, Scleroderma.
The disease resulted in joint problems and affected Chris’ hands. As a result,
Chris found it difficult to walk and had trouble picking things up that may have
fallen to the floor.
Chris had considered getting a dog to be a companion but
her sister suggested she find a dog that could be both a
companion and provide assistance. One of Chris’ friends in
a Scleroderma support group recommended she contact Summit
Assistance Dogs. Within a few months, Chris and a friend
were packing their bags and visiting Summit in Anacortes
on a mini vacation to learn more about the organization and
to meet some of the dogs.
Kirby and her sister had both been donated to Summit. Although
their mother is a yellow Labrador, Kirby, her sister and
their 5 siblings all have black fur. It didn’t take long
to identify their father as the black dog lying nonchalantly
on the neighbor’s lawn! Chris felt an immediate bond with
Kirby and could barely contain her excitement waiting until
Summit contacted her to confirm that she’d been matched with
It was a bonus that Kirby could retrieve objects that Chris may have dropped
on the floor or open doors for her but the benefits went beyond this. Chris had
renewed confidence having Kirby by her side and perhaps most importantly, Kirby
kept Chris happy. She jokes that Kirby was not named principally after a mountain
like the other Summit dogs but after the brand of vacuum cleaner. Even though
she was trained to pick things up, Kirby, who’s very food motivated, often picked
an object up before Chris had time to ask her to do it. Kirby knew that, in dog
rules, every good deed deserves a cookie.