Disabled woman honors her service dog

DANA, IND. (WTHI) – Service dogs help people with a number of tasks. They’re trained to assist people with disabilities such visual or hearing issues. One local girl is now honoring her service dog who she says saved her life.

Renee Ruth suffers from an array of medical issues. She was born with a mitochondrial disease that affects her energy levels. She was also diagnosed with Dysautonomia which affects all involuntary body functions like taking a breath. She also suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which causes her joints to be too flexible and her skin very fragile.

Then at 14 she got sick with mono which disrupted her other diseases.

“I went from an energizer bunny to so sick and so fast,” said Renee.

She lost nearly all lung and muscle functioning. Now she is bedridden and can only be up a few hours a day.

“It’s difficult because it’s so progressive but having Sam really helped,” said Renee.

Sam was Renee’s service dog. The family rescued him from the Terre Haute animal shelter six years ago. Sam would alert the family when Renee was suffering from her multiple health issues.

“Whenever I would go unconscious or pass out because of blood pressure he would start alerting,” said Renee.

“At least three different occasions where we’ve called 911 here plus other numerous occasions,” said Renee’s mom Liz Ruth. “I know Renee wouldn’t be here today without Sam.”

This golden retriever and hound mix was formally trained to be a medical alert and hearing dog.

After six faithful years of serving Renee, he died unexpectedly this past week.

“I had my dad put his full service uniform on because he’s like a little hero and I wanted him to have that honor,” said Renee.

She didn’t just lose her best friend. She lost her lifeline.

“In the past six years, she hasn’t really cried, ‘Why me? Why me?’ But the past couple days seeing her cry about Sam, she hasn’t cried about herself, but Sam is heartbreaking,” said Liz.

Renee is taking her tragedy and turning it into a lesson. She wants to bring awareness to the need for service dogs for disabled people.

According to multiple service dog programs, it costs $20,000 – $30,000 for a fully trained alert dog.

Waiting lists also average around two to three years.

“This isn’t just me. I’ve talked to so many other service dog handlers with random other illnesses,” said Renee.

She hopes to soon launch a not for profit that can help pay for medical bills of other service dogs. Making sure Sam’s legacy live on.

Renee urges people to give back in any way they see fit. She says donating to the Terre Haute Animal Shelter for training or personally training more dogs to become service dogs could stop the shortage. She also urges for programs to provide funding for sick service dogs.

To learn more about Renee’s story, click here:https://www.facebook.com/prayersforreneeruth/?hc_ref=SEARCH

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