Shannon Cogan’s first person account: How a service dog helps my son

September is National Service Dog Month. It’s to celebrate the working dogs who help people gain greater independence.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 4:08 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - September is National Service Dog Month. It’s to celebrate the working dogs who help people gain greater independence.

That’s something Shannon has been able to witness firsthand since her son Colt was matched to his service dog Wink three years ago.

Shannon has frequently been asked by viewers for an update on their relationship, and this seemed like the perfect time.

As a parent, you want to do anything you can to make your child’s life better. Getting Wink from Canine Companions for Independence for her son Colt tops the list.

“My favorite things about Wink …she helps me with exercises, and she keeps me company and she’s my best friend,” Colt said.

Wink is a friend who cares more about Colt than herself.

Colt had open heart surgery at two days old to repair a heart defect, and at four weeks old had a cardiac arrest that led to balance issues and some physical limitations.

Now Wink is there to help Colt in physical therapy.

“Sometimes it’s just not the pressure Wink is putting on the legs but taking his mind off what he’s doing,” said Kellie Robinson, Colt’s physical therapist.

Colt also had a cleft palate and hearing loss. That combined with the cardiac arrest led to speech delays. But with Wink, Colt must use a loud, clear voice when giving any of the 50 commands she knows.

“I use here, and I use let’s go, and I use wait. And I use get and hold. And I use down and sit,” Colt said.

Colt also takes more walks with Wink. His twin brother Cade says he loves that Wink is Colt’s best friend, and she calms him.

“Colt can get distracted at times and Wink helps him so much with that,” Cade said. “He’s just so much more focused, like getting ready. Because Wink is there for him, and he has to get Wink ready, so it gives him something to do.”

His Dad notices Wink is making Colt more independent, which is what we always wanted.

“Colt has had to become much more responsible. And a leader of the dog,” Kendall said.

And he may not know it, but when Colt’s brushing her hair or her teeth, he’s improving his fine motor skills. It’s a very special relationship to watch, one I’m so grateful for and so is Colt.

“She makes me feel safe and calm and happy,” Colt said.

Canine Companions for Independence is the country’s oldest service dog agency, and they provide dogs to recipients free of charge.