Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Man, His Dog and Their Woodshop

In February of 2000, Carl was injured when he fell on the ice which left him facing surgery to repair his spinal column which collapsed around the spinal cord, leaving him to be an invalid for over a year. This injury was only 1/2cm difference less than that of Christopher Reeve. After cervical spinal plates and screws were applied to his C2, C3 and C4 vertebrae in surgery, Carl went through 5 years of rehabilitation, re-learning to do things all over again. Although he has 100% mobility from his neck up, he currently has only 75% use from his neck down, working every day to become stronger. Carl stated, “My limitations are like wearing oven mitts all the time, or like a kid in a candy store that cannot touch anything because of a plate of glass in front of him.” Carl suffers from pain, stiffness, and lack of ability to completely feel while trying to grip things, often dropping items or inadvertently having items release from his hands.

During his rehab, Carl obtained a Rottweiler Service Dog, from a friend in 2003. Drago, an older “pass-around” dog was already set in his ways, a non-retriever type, but was good for Carl’s depressive mind set. Drago would help him to be stable when getting up from sitting or laying, and staying at his side as his best friend. Carl owned the dog for 5 years before Drago passed on from kidney failure.

One month after Drago’s passing, while out doing household shopping, Carl would watch for bulletin board ads at pet stores for another pup to train into a service dog. He came across a 14 week old Saint Bernard in one ad, but the cost was more than he could afford. At this point Carl was intrigued because of the photo and by the Saint Bernard breed as they are not usually bred or trained for this type of duty. By chance at another store that very same day, Carl lucked out with a family that had posted the same breed of dog but had no time for the 14 week old Saint Bernard pup, and the price was perfect for Carl’s disability budget.

On the way home, the pup stuck his head out of the car window when he heard a bunch of Harley Motorcycles passing by, thus endearing him to the name of Harlee.
Harlee is no ordinary service dog, but a Mobility Service Dog. Carl said, “Having the type of disability I have is awkward, painful and very tiring. I have total nerve damage and only true feeling in 20% of my body. Over time I have learned to grasp things but with the censory and motor  nerves in my hands damaged, it gets awkward. I grip things really hard. I have my shop table built so Ido not have to bend over very low, and rubber work matts on  areas that I work. My service dog Harlee, is a big help, he’s always there to pick up anything I drop. If he can get it in his mouth he picks it up. I won’t let him pick up sharp objects I use a magnet or my pickup tool for that. If I do have to get down on my knees, he is there to help me get on my feet.”

He helps Carl get in and out of his bed, chair, car, and stabilizes him when he needs to get up from a kneeling position or walking up and down stairs to his woodshop.

Harlee wears a special vest with a built-in handle to assist Carl when his spine locks up to get mobile again. Carl trained him from a pup in a non-treat dependent way using the Susquehanna Service Dog Program to learn how to retrieve small things at first. Then graduating to larger things as Harlee grew. Carl not only trained him on what to pick up, but what not to pick up, as in no sharp items or edges allowed.

Now full grown at 4 years old this August 2012, weighing in at 125 lbs, Harlee is quite the woodworking dog in his own right, enabling Carl to do his woodworking.

Harlee picks up and brings woodworking items inspiring Carl every day to have fun in the woodshop.

All Harlee requires in reward is some scratching behind the ears!

Full article available on Woodworking Adventures.  
Text and pictures courtesy of Woodworking Adventures. 

One of the nurses I work with shares with me stories about her dad's woodshop and the things he's made for her. When she needs something, like a frame for a just finished jigsaw puzzle, he just goes out in to his wood shop and makes her one with whatever he has on hand. I've seen a few and they are wonderful. 

 To me, a man having his own working woodshop is incredibly down-to-earth, humble, soul soothing and, yes, romantic. It's grass roots, old fashioned and real. Glad I stumbled upon this article and just wanted to share.

1 comment:

Woodcraft Woodworking Adventures Blog said...

Thank you for sharing our article from Woodcraft's Woodworking Adventures blog site. It is with Carl and his woodshop canine companion that inspires not only woodworking, but one of many life's examples that we come across and are able to share with everyone. Credits to Carl in taking the time to share his story with us. We hope this might inspire you in your life and hobby. Visit us at Woodworking for the many stories we have come across in our journeys.

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