Local woman training own service dog

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Todd Mishler | October 20, 2013

LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP — Nancy Welch was at her lowest point, and doctors had not come up with enough answers as to why she was suffering from non-epileptic seizures or how to proceed medically.

But a chance encounter with a four-legged passerby while lying in a hospital bed changed Welch's outlook, and eventually her life.

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“I was in the hospital and feeling quite hopeless,” Welch recalled. “I always have been an animal lover, and I heard that a therapy dog was coming through. I thought, with a name like Trixie, that it would be a Chihuahua or something small like that. But I wanted to see this dog. She turned out to be a Bernese mountain dog … it was a happy moment for me.”

Welch sometimes suffers from extreme anxiety disorder.

“It's difficult for me to be in certain social situations (agoraphobia), and that's why this cause is so important to me,” Welch said.

That cause is called Paws for Unseen Disabilities, an organization she created to help herself, and with more time and donations, she wants to provide the financial resources so others in the same or similar circumstances can buy service/therapy dogs.

To that end, Welch purchased Cooper, a lovable Bernese who is 12 weeks old today (Oct. 20).

She and her new best friend will head to Independence, Mo., for their first training session Oct. 29 with Susan Bass of Canine Specialties Training. Welch said she anticipates making monthly trips south, at least at the beginning, during a process that could take 18 to 24 months.

“I wanted to take the most affordable way, and I'm lucky because my sister-in-law lives 20 minutes from the facility, but I want to have an active role in the training process, and Susan has come highly recommended and has an unbelievable background.”

Welch understands there are no guarantees. However, she is optimistic and has faith that Cooper is the answer for her, and that others in need could benefit.

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