Dogs That Work – Colt and Wink
When WAVE-3 News Anchor Shannon Cogan’s twins were born, one of the boys, Colt, suffered a cardiac arrest that left him with several lingering disabilities. Colt, now 11, has had to undergo physical, speech, and occupational therapies to address his hearing loss, ADHD, speech delay, and low muscle tone. But one therapy has changed this family’s lives more than any other: a golden-coated lab known as Wink.
For two years Colt was on the waitlist for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization out of California that matches service dogs to needy recipients, free of charge. Wink was specially bred for his people-driven, patient, and obedient temperament, and was raised by a volunteer family outside of Chicago as a pup. At a year-and-a-half, Wink was sent to California to receive extensive training by the organization. He knows over 50 commands and can sit with a dog biscuit on his paw for over an hour, until he is given the command to eat it. This is a dog like no other, and he has revolutionized Colt’s quality of life.
Wink and Colt were matched after intensive training and observations. For 20 days, Shannon and Colt attended classes where Canine Companions for Independence prepared the family for their skilled companion. Shannon likens the experience to a dating service: the handlers looked for chemistry between the child and dog. When Colt was placed with Wink (his favorite dog in the group), he literally jumped up and down with joy. This was a match made in heaven.
In a few short months, Shannon has noticed the profound impact Wink has on Colt. Giving the commands helps Colt articulate his speech and gain confidence. Wink helps Colt with his physical therapy by laying on the backs of his tight hamstrings, and can help Colt with gross motor skills such as taking off tight pajamas and bulky coats. When Wink gets the command “Tug” from Colt, he uses his muzzle to help him undress.
More than anything, Shannon appreciates the calming effect that Wink has on Colt. Doctor’s appointments and surgeries used to frustrate Colt, but with Wink by his side, he is now calm and at ease. Going out to eat has also become a more enjoyable experience with Wink. Colt had trouble waiting for a table or food, but now Wink gives him something to do with his impulsivity. “Wink is a peace-builder and friend-maker,” Shannon says. At his twin brother’s sporting events, many children now approach Colt and it has helped him form social bonds.
Wink can also pay with a credit card, carry a shopping bag, and follow commands without distraction at a busy mall. But Colt’s favorite command? “Visit.” That is when Wink puts his head on Colt’s lap so that Colt can give him love.