Lending a helping paw
Assistance dog offers his owner guidance, companionship through pandemic
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.
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.
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
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.