Haley and Nikko
Haley was diagnosed with autoimmune Juvenile Poly-Arthritis in 2016 at age 14. Haley was active in sports and school. She is an avid equestrian and is working toward joining a show team for jumping. Since her diagnosis she has had to drop out of sports and she is in an online school that she does at home. She continues to ride once or twice a week but often times she must remain in bed the day after due to pain and fatigue. She struggles with depression and anxiety due to her illness and coping with the daily pain and severe fatigue. She remains active in church youth group and this continues to be a source of strength for her. Haley is an amazing young lady. She is funny, sweet, kind hearted and a straight A student. Haley’s career goal is to attend William Woods University and major in Equine Science. She attended the summer camp program at the university last summer and plans to go again in 2018.
Nikko came into our lives at a low point for Haley. She is on multiple medications, 2 of which are weekly shots, with awful side effects. Nikko immediately bonded with Haley. What does he do for her? He gives her unconditional love, he snuggles with her on days she must stay in bed or on the couch. He sleeps beside her and keeps her warm because the cold makes her joints hurt. He absorbs her pain and anxiety and he calms and comforts her in a way we cannot. He has no agenda, no ideas for a cure, no judgement, no pity and no disbelief in her condition. These are things she must deal with from family and the public, but not with Nikko. In public situations, Nikko is focused on Haley and taking care of her. This is a huge comfort to her. He accompanies her to her many physician and clinic appointments and buries his head in her lap to ease her anxiety and pain. He often stands in front of her to shield her from others and has to be gently reminded that the physician needs to examine her! Haley takes care of Nikko herself. She grooms him, feeds him, and he gives her a strong motivation to get up each morning to let him outside and feed him. This may seem like a small thing but getting up is a huge deal due to pain and stiffness in the morning. Haley is never alone to bear her pain or fatigue, Nikko stays at her side. On her good days he is happy to play ball or take walks with her. He loves to go to youth group and family outings. I know he loves it most when she feels well and is active and smiling. Haley is not responding to the medication regimen she is currently on and so she will begin new medications soon. Nikko will be there to help her through this period. As parents, we thank God every day for Nikko and the amazing organization of volunteers who train these amazing animals.