The U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team is in the midst of training for the Paralympic Games that will take place in Rio September 7-18, 2016. This year is bringing a lot of excitement to the team, including the team’s unique assistant — Canine Companions Facility Dog Morrow II. Morrow has been a true companion and helper to the team for almost nine years.
After observing the Paralympic sailors with their pets, the team’s coach Betsy saw the potential that a team dog could act as a stress reducer and psychological motivator for athletes. She consulted with several sports psychologists who agreed. In May 2007, she added a new member to the sailing team when she graduated from Canine Companions with Morrow, an exceptional facility dog.
The team includes nearly 20 athletes with disabilities. Many have spinal cord injuries of varying severity and about half the members use wheelchairs. Betsy notices that when sailors make errors or perform poorly on the water they often internalize the stress and their mental state suffers. “Morrow provides stress reduction. You can’t help but smile at his unconditional love and regain a positive outlook,” says Betsy.
Thanks to his training at Canine Companions, Morrow can assist the sailors with tasks like picking up dropped tools and carrying life jackets and dry bags. Morrow is a constant professional. He is unperturbed by common sounds aboard the coach boat. Air horns, whistles, wave action or shouted greetings from other boats don’t distract him in the slightest.
“Morrow has been more of a physical and emotional support to the athletes than anyone anticipated. Physically, Morrow picks up out of reach items, carries athlete bags and gear, and even assists with docking the boats by bringing fenders to the sailors. Emotionally, Morrow has been a training constant for the athletes who must often travel away from home, leaving their support systems to attend camps and competition,” shares Betsy.
We can’t wait to cheer on the team in September! Best of luck to all of them.
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