Lending a help­ing paw

As­sis­tance dog of­fers his owner guid­ance, com­pan­ion­ship through pan­demic

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State -

Coro­n­avirus helpers have come in all shapes and sizes. Joe La­timer’s helper is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent breed. It’s a mix of Labrador re­triever and a golden re­triever, and he’s made La­timer’s life a lot more tol­er­a­ble the past three months.

“He’s been great,” La­timer said.

“He” is Helios, a frisky, 3-year-old as­sis­tance dog.

His owner is La­timer, a re­silient 40-year-old para­plegic.

When you cross Helios with La­timer and a pan­demic, you see what it’s re­ally like to han­dle a life-chang­ing event.

COM­MEN­TARY

La­timer’s came five years ago. He was walk­ing his dog across a street and a car ran a red light go­ing about 45 m.p.h. The crash left him un­able to walk or use his hands.

La­timer picked up the pieces of his life and now lives with a his long­time girl­friend, Tracey

Neal­ley. She’s a clin­i­cal nurse man­ager with Ad­ven­tHealth.

Like a lot of health pro­fes­sion­als, Neal­ley hasn’t been around the house much.

“Ob­vi­ously, their world has been turned up­side down,” La­timer said. “She’s on call 24/ 7, try­ing to take care of things at the hos­pi­tal and also mak­ing sure I’m taken care of.”

No wor­ries. Helios is also on call 24/ 7, though you wouldn’t have known it on a re­cent visit to La­timer’s house.

He was loung­ing on a couch and ap­peared to be fully en­gaged in a nap.

“He’s al­ways lis­ten­ing,” La­timer said.

His snooz­ing house­mate heard a com­mand and snapped to at­ten­tion.

“Helios, stand!”

“Helios, leash!”

He grabbed a leash with his mouth and de­liv­ered it to La­timer.

“Good boy!” La­timer said. They live in a house La­timer bought six months be­fore his ac­ci­dent. He was 35, healthy, had a great re­la­tion­ship with

DIESTA GUNDACKER/COUR­TESY PHOTO

Joe La­timer has re­lied on his as­sis­tance dog, Helios, to help him get through the shut­down while he works from home and his girl­friend puts in long hours at Ad­ven­tHealth.

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