Kim was diagnosed with early onset dementia three years ago when she was only 48 years old. She had originally obtained Maggie to train as a therapy dog for use in seniors’ homes, but upon her diagnosis the White family switched tracks. “We decided I needed her more,” smiles Kim. Maggie is the only dog in the area that is being taught to aid a person with dementia. Shani Antypovich is credited with the training of Maggie. Kim, her husband Bruce and her entire family, have also been very involved in Maggie’s training. Maggie finds the things Kim cannot such as her purse, car keys. Maggie can also close the back door with a rope to make sure that task gets done. Maggie is a one of a kind service dog.
Dementia is not currently recognized by Canadian authorities as a legitimate disease for service dogs. EODAF (Early Onset Dementia Alberta Foundation) is working on changing that. Service dogs for a person with dementia have not been considered an option because of the generally advanced age of dementia patients and the concern that they may put the dog outside at -40 and forget to bring it in or forget to feed the dog. Although Kim is still living at home with her husband and family, these risks do not apply to her yet. A person with Early Onset Dementia requires more than just a therapy dog to sit and cuddle them.
The fact that a person can be diagnosed with dementia in their 40’s and 50’s changes the need for higher level of activities. Kim needs drugs as well for her dementia and takes five different ones but a strong dose for anxiety is not among them because Maggie replaces the need for that one. Maggie crawls up and puts all her weight on Kim’s chest and just lies there when Kim is experiencing an anxiety attack. Maggie has the ability to calm Kim down and provide a constant companion that she can trust. Bruce and Kim can certainly demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of service dog and hope that dogs like Maggie will soon be recognized as a legitimate need for early onset dementia persons.
Using Companion Dogs to spread love.
There is nothing more heartwarming than to bring a smile to a person’s face and melt away their frustrations.
Shani Antypovich is a loving wife, mom of three wonderful children, a jack of all trades, Choice’s coach, and an active community volunteer with her local Thrift Store that she helped redesign, as well as works there. Shani is involved in taking her dogs to local lodges for elderly and dementia, where she can allow her dogs to brighten someone’s day or even just a moment. She has taken courses on obedience, agility and dog behavior.
The power of an animal is so amazing. Her dog Mercy, spent the day shaking her paw, cuddling, resting her head on comfy laps, and receiving kisses from some people who could not tell you what day it was or even what year. But as soon as they touch her and she looks them in the face... magic!!! They remember they love dogs and they remember that they had a dog. Just the site of Mercy melts away the frustration of the day and they are taken back to a time when they were healthy and independent. I am able to enjoy the stories of their beloved pets. I am so grateful for the life lessons I learn from my dog! To be grateful, to serve, and to love! Shani turned one of her childhood passions into a dream come true in 2009 and opened a boarding Kennel. Shani’s speciality is the obedience classes and in home visits to help her clients solve problems with their pets.
With her own dogs, Shani is constantly on a daily routine teaching them new things for the benefits of being therapy dogs. Shani has now ventured into working her dogs into the world of Dementia. In 2012 Shani started training her sister’s dog Maggie.
This year Shani has accepted the new challenge to help bring Dementia and Companion dogs together as one. She will be EODAF’s Dementia Companion dog trainer or as her sister Kim likes to refer to her as “the sister with soul and spirit of all those animals that need a voice!”