Port Royal woman: Service dog simply 'amazing'

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comNovember 18, 2013 

After she lost her leg in 2011, Port Royal resident Mary Seamon would often struggle to keep her balance.

Sometimes, she'd fall. And if she was outside, with nothing to grab onto to pull herself up, she'd have to wait for someone to drive by to lend a hand.

Nowadays, there's a helping paw always by her side.

Seamon brought Dapper home in August. The Labrador retriever has been trained as a mobility service dog, and his specialty is helping Seamon stay upright.

"It's embarrassing to have to wait for someone to drive by to help me up," she said.

Seamon said Dapper is trained to help her get up if she falls, meaning no more waiting for passers-by.

Dapper also helps Seamon with a variety of household tasks she would have difficulty with on her own, like closing the shutters on her windows, pushing a wagon filled with groceries, or going outside to get the newspaper."Dapper has been absolutely wonderful," Seamon said. "It has really worked out well. ... It would be very difficult to function without him."

Seamon, the former chief instructional services officer for the Beaufort County School District, lost her leg in 2011 after blood clots formed in veins deep under her skin during a plane flight. She spent nearly a year in the hospital and suffered an infection that led doctors to amputate her leg.

Almost immediately after leaving the hospital, Seamon began the long application process with Palmetto Assisted Animal Life Services, a Columbia-based nonprofit organization that trains service animals. Seamon said the process included interviews in Columbia and in-home visits.

Dapper trained for almost two years -- about as long as Seamon waited to get him -- before he was fully qualified for service, PAALS treasurer Cecil Bordages said.

Seamon and Dapper met for the first time in August during training in Columbia. Seamon spent two full weeks learning Dapper's capabilities and building a bond with the dog before returning home to Port Royal.

"I was absolutely amazed by what he could do," she said. "It really is remarkable."

Back in Port Royal, Dapper helps Seamon with the groceries, having learned to pull a wagon filled with items into the house from her detached garage. At night, Dapper closes the plantation shutters in Seamon's windows.

After three months with Dapper, Seamon and her service dog were recognized in a graduation ceremony by PAALS on Friday in Columbia.

Having Dapper means Seamon can again easily enjoy some of life's little luxuries, like a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper.

"I called the newspaper carrier a few days ago and asked him if he could throw the newspaper inside the fence," she said. "Dapper can go get the paper if it's inside the fence, and I don't have to get dressed up to go out and get it. It's huge. It's incredible to have him."

Service dog helps a Port Royal resident to regain her independence (3:12)

Mary Seamon talks Nov. 18, 2013, about how her quality of life has improved since getting her service dog, Dapper, from the Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services in September.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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