Ascension employees make connection between patient, new service animal

For the Metro Wire

It’s fair to say that in nearly 40-years of combined experience at Ascension facilities in Stevens Point, Kayla Arendt, Mary Spielman, and Tina Chevalier-Laube aren’t afraid to go the extra mile for their patients.

A few months ago, they learned that Nicole Hill, a patient at Ascension Medical Group at Hoover in Stevens Point, was going to have to retire her service animal.

Hill and her faithful companion Rocky were well-known at the clinic, with staff regularly having dog treats at the ready whenever they were on the schedule.

Rocky was no longer able to continue as Hill’s service animal and he was retired to new owners. While Rocky is living out his golden years, it was devastating to Hill, who is legally blind, to lose her faithful companion.

“We knew we had to do something,” said Arendt, who works as a patient service representative, along with Chevalier-Laube, and Spielman, an occupational therapist, all dog-lovers. “We began to research options for other animals for her, but cost and availability were an issue.”

Arendt made contact with local resident Butch Lind, who is a member of the local Lions Club that has a long history of service to the blind and visually impaired. That conversation provided information about Leader Dogs for the Blind, a guide dog training school founded by Lions Club International and located in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Once learning about the program, Spielman, and Chevalier-Laube helped with the application process that included a significant amount of paperwork and a home video tour.

“We were excited to learn about this program, but we knew Nika needed help to produce the information and video on tasks she needed assistance within her home and in the community as well as the required meetings to get her enrolled,” said Chevalier-Laube.

After Hill was accepted into the program, Spielman joined with Hill’s family members in late November to take her to the Central Wisconsin Airport on a plane bound for Michigan.

Arendt, Spielman, and Chevalier-Laube returned to CWA on Dec. 19 when Hill returned home to the airport with the 18-month old black lab that was ready for duty.

“I am so grateful to my friends at Ascension who helped me when I needed it the most and the Lions Club for providing the opportunity with Leader Dog,” said Hill. “I learned that the transition from your first service animal to your second is one of the most difficult things to deal with, but I’m excited to bring Glory home and can’t wait to bring her to the Hoover Clinic.”

As a result of the Lion Club support, the Leader Dog Program provided Hill with Glory, who is fitted with a GPS tracker and all the training free of charge.

“We’ll be back in the office at 6:45 tomorrow morning,” said Arendt. “This definitely is a happy holiday story to tell.”