In 2010, Hannah was matched with her first Saint Francis Service Dog, Hope. With Hope by her side, Hannah graduated from high school and then Bridgwater College with a degree in International Studies, made the move to Washington D.C., and began her career as an analyst with the United States Department of Defense.
When speaking about her relationship with Hope, Hannah said, “As I settled into college, I found Hope would have my back in more ways than I thought. She was a great ice breaker to meet new friends, aside from just picking my keys and gloves up all the time. I found people waiting to talk with me about her especially. For the last 5 years, we’ve taken care of each other in Northern Virginia, and she continues to draw all sorts of people who would otherwise be intimidated by my wheelchair.”
In 2019, Hope retired from her work as a service dog, but Hannah was just starting out in her career and young adult life. Hannah became a candidate for a successor dog, a dog placed with an existing partner of Saint Francis Service Dogs when their service dog is ready to retire. Successor dogs are important in ensuring that our partners can maintain their independence. The matching process for successor dogs can sometimes be more involved than matching a new team, because we want to make sure that the new dog fits in the existing team's established style and relationship.
Fancy was puppy raised in our Prison Puppy Program and trained by our staff trainer, Debbie. Both her puppy raiser and Debbie describe Fancy as a real sweetheart who is always eager to please and loves to work. Debbie also noted Fancy's position work as being excellent, a quality that is very important for our partners who utilize wheelchairs. A service dog’s understanding and obedience in where they are positioned in relation to their partner and their environment is important for the safety of their partner. When moving and maneuvering through tight or enclosed spaces with a wheelchair, it is especially important. After a series of matching interviews, where Hannah worked with a few of our dogs while our training team observed, it was apparent that Fancy would fit right in with Hannah and Hope.
Unfortunately, Hope passed away in April of 2020 leaving a hole that is impossible to fill. Hannah reports that Fancy has been a faithful, fun girl during these challenging times, saying, “She has kept me laughing during these times of high stress. Her creativity and goofiness help keep my days light...I cannot wait to begin reintegrating her into my office space, because I think her energy will be infectious to my coworkers especially. She's injected a dose of get-up-and-go that has made me want to go out for the things that I want to do.”
Over the next 8-10 years, Fancy will be with Hannah to retrieve dropped and out of reach items, assist with holding and carrying things, and many other direct skills that provide Hannah with increased independence and self-sufficiency. She will also be a source of inspiration, joy, and love for Hannah, who says, “It is difficult to gauge how she will change my life over the coming years, but Fancy will be bringing the positivity and the go-get-em’ attitude I need to keep up. While we're finding our new adventures, she'll help keep me safe by ensuring that I reach far, but not too far.”