By Starrla Cray
DELANO, CORCORAN, MN Delano second grader Maxximos (Maxx) Kirley, who was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, will soon receive a service dog from Canine Assistants, thanks to a special donation from Coborn’s in Delano and the Milk-Bone Brand.
“This is going to open up Maxx’s world,” his mother, Terry, said at a donation ceremony at Coborn’s Tuesday.
Judy Moore, recipient services coordinator for Canine Assistants, brought a service dog to the ceremony, as an example of the type of dog Maxx will receive.
Maxx’s second grade class, which is taught by Christy Branes, watched as Moore instructed the dog to pick up keys and a fork.
“He knows over 90 commands,” Moore said.
After the presentation, Coborn’s treated Maxx’s class of 24 students to a dog bone-shaped cake and chocolate chip cookies.
“For the past seven years, Coborn’s has given away dogs like this in different locations,” said Joe Tipka, manager of Coborn’s in Delano. “We’re proud to have the opportunity to help.”
Terry and her husband, Jack, applied for a service dog last summer, during a muscular dystrophy conference. Canine Assistants, a national non-profit organization, told the Kirley family that there is a waiting list of about 1,200 people, and it could take five years to get a dog.
“Fortunately, Coborn’s came in and sponsored the dog,” Terry said. “It’s really awesome that Coborn’s is doing this.”
The service dogs cost about $10,000 each, and the lifelong medical, food and training costs for one of these special dogs can exceed $20,000.
Canine Assistants doesn’t charge recipients anything for the dogs, but instead relies on corporate sponsors, such as Milk-Bone, as well as private donations.
The dogs are given to children and adults with physical disabilities, seizure conditions, or other special needs such as diabetes or autism.
“Our dogs are very instrumental in people’s lives,” Moore said.
Service dogs perform physical tasks that can be difficult for people with disabilities, such as picking up items off the floor and turning off light switches. They also provide companionship, which helps build confidence.
“Having a disability affects every system in your body, not just physically,” Terry said.
When Maxx found out that he was getting a service dog, Terry said the first thing he asked was: “Can I bring it to recess?”
Muscular dystrophy has made it difficult for Maxx to play active games with the other children, Terry said. She hopes that the dog will provide a way for other children to connect with Maxx.
“It just brings kids together,” she said.
Service dogs are allowed almost anywhere, Moore said.
“The only places they can’t go are in an operating room and a maternity room,” she said.
The dogs are golden retrievers and Labradors, primarily, although Canine Assistants does have golden and Lab mixes, as well as other golden mixes.
Later this year, Maxx and his parents, who live in Corcoran, will attend a two-week camp in Atlanta, GA, where Maxx will become acquainted with his new dog.
“We’re just so fortunate to be able to get a dog so soon,” Terry said. “It’s phenomenal.”
People in Delano have been great about helping Maxx, she added.
“Maxx’s type of muscular dystrophy is very rare, and Delano has really stepped up to the plate to be supportive,” she said.
About the disorder
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the type that Maxx has, occurs in about 2 out of 10,000 people, according to healthcentral.com
DMD is a progressive genetic disorder, and symptoms usually appear in boys ages 1 to 6. It’s characterized by muscle weakness that starts in the legs and pelvis, and later affects the whole body.
Maxx recently participated in a clinical study for a trial drug, but the drug isn’t available on the market yet, and needs to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“With Maxx, we saw great improvements,” Jack said. “We’re excited that they’ll find a way with that drug, or a different one.”
Maxx has a personal web page at www.enddmd.org. The page is part of the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy web site, www.parentprojectmd.org.
For more information about Canine Assistants, go to www.canineassistants.org.