CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When you meet Ronald Tasker it is easy to forget about his disability because all you can see is his megawatt smile and his zest for life. The 16-year-old Bandys High School Junior is especially excited about his future now that he has Achilles, his service dog. "He goes crazy like this all the time. We love each other so. Our love for each other is unconditional," Ronald told me as Achilles jumped into his lap and gave him lots of kisses. The bond between them has been evident since their first meeting when Achilles was just an 8-week-old pup.
"There is just such a need for service dogs it's unquenchable," Ronald told me. He spent several years on various waiting lists, hoping his chance would come for a dog to help him. That's when Swiftdogz of Concord stepped in. The philosophy at Switfdogz is to really understand the needs of the client and find the dog that will be just the right match, according to Jenni Lough-Watson, President of Swiftdogz. When you see Achilles and Ronald together, now four months later, you can see the match was spot on.
We met at Ronald's home while Michelle Baginski, Senior Behavior Specialist at Swiftdogz, was working with Ronald and Achilles. "He really likes children so we're working on making sure he doesn't go up to children when he sees them, so we're working on that," Michelle told Ronald. Achilles doesn't live with Ronald full-time yet, he should be done with his training by October of 2015.
Ronald says this is the beginning of a beautiful lifelong and important companionship. When he got the news he was matched with a puppy, "I was so excited and I thought this is another step towards my dreams! I have a lot of big aspirations to help people and to change lives….Killey,(Achilles), empowers me to do that!"
Achilles is being trained to assist in just about every aspect of Ronald's life. "He's going to help me as I go through my daily routines and that really impacts my life because it makes it a lot easier. And it makes me more able to do things that I wouldn't be able to do otherwise…things that usually come difficult for me," Ronald told me.
When he talks about Achilles' training he talks like a proud papa, "Swiftdogz has been great training him, he knows a lot for his age! He's only six months old so he knows an unbelievable amount. And he's very obedient!"
Ronald got to see just how obedient Achilles is when Ronald was an Honoree at The Sandbox's 'An Evening of Believing' prom. The Sandbox is a local non-profit organization that 'locks arms with families who have a child with a life-altering illness, like Ronald, or a child fighting cancer'. The prom gives young people like Ronald, an evening they'll never forget, and a chance to not think about their illness or disability. "It was a great opportunity to get together and celebrate what we have! Celebrate what we DO have and take a break from the harsh realities that we sometimes we have to face," Ronald told me of The Sandbox prom. "It was everything I expected and more - it was awesome! It was so awesome to relate with my peers and great to talk to new people who are in similar situations to what I am," Ronald said.