Back in February we added a new hero named Mark Rinkel, who helps families all over the country acquire diabetic service dogs. (See Mark’s bio here.) Mark’s brother suffers from Type 1 Diabetes which is the harshest kind. The service dogs, if trained properly, can detect when a patient is reaching a dangerous low and then alert family members ahead of time.
It was at the same time that we told you of a four-year-old girl in Oregon named Ayla that Mark was working with to get a new service dog. It turned out that the service dog she had was suffering from cancer so she needed a replacement. They bought a new dog named Lily and attempted to train it. At that time, Ayla’s family was threatened with eviction because of the apartment complex’s “No Dogs Allowed” policy. It did not appear relevant to the landlord that the animals were service dogs, protected by the ADA. See the news report about the eviction here.
To add further stress to the situation, Lily didn’t make it as a service dog, so they needed another replacement. We put out feelers around the country asking for someone to donate an animal to this needy family. Nothing came of it and I fell out of touch with the situation.
Since Kids Are Heroes Day is coming up soon, I recently contacted all the heroes’ parents to extend them an invitation. Unfortunately Mark cannot be there this year, but I asked if the situation was ever resolved with Ayla. What an amazing resolution! Mark convinced an expert from Alert Dogs into searching for the right dog for Ayla and instilling the training. Mark won a grant from Noble Oil to pay for the project (It would not have been possible without this!). After many months they found “Princess Shasta” – a half bichon frise and half schnauzer. Because the family had returned a scam dog, lost a fantastic dog to cancer, and had a puppy fail in the training stage due to the incredible stress from the discrimination at their apartment complex, Mark’s family spent a month with the dog ensuring she was going to be successful. Mark helped potty train her, while Jason helped to make sure she could alert to a real life diabetic low, and the whole family tested her out for public access issues. And then Mark and Jason got to deliver her to Oregon.
Within a week of having Princess the mom and dad were able to get a baby sitter and go out for an evening (the first in years). The instructions were to check Ayla at 6pm and 8pm. At 7pm Princess signaled there was a problem. The babysitter checked, and Ayla was slightly low. She was able to treat her without a life-threatening problem. Had she waited until 8pm it might have been a very different ending.
On a side note, HUD has just found in their favor in the discrimination case. In fact, they stated that it was the worst case of discrimination they have ever seen in Oregon. HADCO, the federal agency in charge of the low income housing now has 30 days to settle with the family and submit to discrimination training or the government will shut them down.
I remember the frustration I felt for this family when I first heard about it. I am so glad it was resolved positively. Congratulations Mark – your persistence definitely paid off.