Posted by Teresa Bitler Aug 10 2015
Diamond was one day from being put down when Denna Williams found her at the animal shelter, but the stroke survivor says she’s the one that’s really been rescued. The 9-year-old Alaskan Samoa has saved her life twice and has given her purpose.
In 1999, Williams suffered a massive stroke that left her completely paralyzed on her left side, and wiped her memory clean to the point where she couldn’t even remember her name, she says. To complicate matters, she was two months pregnant.
Although she gave birth to a healthy daughter, the retired military civilian faced other challenges. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and issues with mobility and balance. She also had trouble with daily activities, including getting dressed. Not to mention, Williams was now a single mom of four.
The day Williams met Diamond in 2004 changed both of their lives. Working with a certified dog trainer, Diamond learned to remind Williams to take her medications, assist with daily living tasks, and call for help. Twice, that training has saved Williams’ life when she suffered seizures and Diamond’s barking alerted others.
She also inspired Williams to continue recovering. With Diamond’s help, Williams has moved from a wheelchair to full mobility, and she has been able to replace negative feelings like anger, fear, and helplessness with more positive ones. Williams has more confidence and a new purpose after becoming a certified dog trainer herself.
Diamond’s impact on her own life inspired Williams to take the Samoa into the community. She visits hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes, and has even served as the mascot for a local soccer team.
“She has helped so many people, not just our family,” Williams says.
Although Diamond will retire in December 2015, her legacy will live on through William’s service animal training organization, Diamond Life Services Charity. Diamond herself will continue to live with the Williams family as well as her replacement, Donna-Joe (DJ, for short), another Samoa.
Williams believes that almost any stroke survivor, regardless of abilities, can benefit from a trained service dog. The right dog can provide:
• Assistance with daily tasks
• Security, knowing the dog can alert others when you’re in trouble
• Confidence when going out in public
• Motivation to improve
• Emotional support
“Diamond has benefited me in so many ways,” Williams says.
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