James and Poppy

  • Child's Name James
  • Dog’s Name Poppy
  • Type of Service
    Traditional / Mobility Service Dogs
  • Child's Disability
    Cerebal Palsy
  • Training Program
    NEADS
MA

POPPY LOVE: Service dog will assist Scituate boy with cerebral palsy

’’By STEPHANIE VOSK
The Patriot Ledger

And although Poppy’s name is spelled differently from the nickname of her namesake, Red Sox player David ‘‘Big Papi’’ Ortiz, the dog and the baseball star share a major quality: They’re great at what they do.

Poppy, a 1½-year-old black Labrador retriever, is the new service dog for 15-year-old James, who lives inScituateand has cerebral palsy. Poppy will accompany him on outings, bring him items he asks for, and summon help should an emergency arise. On Friday, she received her diploma from National Education for Assistance Dog Services.

‘‘It makes me feel a lot safer to have someone in the house I can depend on,’’ James said.

James and Poppy spent the last two weeks training together inPrinceton. Poppy is trained to turn on lights, hit elevator buttons and open doors.

The Breen family had been waiting two years for a dog when, in May, they got a call letting them know that four dogs were about to graduate.

They met all four dogs, but for the Breens, there was no question.

‘‘It was like a perfect match before it happened,’’ James’ mother, Anne, said.

Poppy was a prison pup, training during the week with an inmate in the Hampshire House of Correction inNorthampton. She then moved on to work with trainer Christy Greenlaw, who prepared her for service.

Greenlaw said the dog is perfect for a younger person.

‘‘Poppy’s a pretty laid-back, sensitive dog,’’ Greenlaw said. ‘‘We don’t get many of those.’’

Poppy’s moniker, part of the attraction for the Breens, came from Susan Finkle ofEast Falmouth. She and her sisters donated money to sponsor a dog, in memory of another sister, the late Judy Fairfield Evans, who had spent her summer with her dog at Popponesset Beach on the Cape.

‘‘After my sister died, we wanted to pay a tribute to her and we couldn’t think of a better way,’’ said Finkle, who attended Friday’s graduation at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Finkle had the chance to meet Poppy and the Breens at the ceremony. She said she is extremely pleased with the dog’s placement.

Whether Poppy will start ninth grade with James at Scituate High School this fall has not been decided. The two need to be completely comfortable with each other, Anne Breen said.

They looked pretty chummy the other day as Poppy calmly set herself up next to James’ wheelchair.

Poppy won’t have too much time to relax; she has a job to do, but as Anne Breen said, it’s not like she’s working for free.

‘‘They work for love,’’ she said. ‘‘Love and cookies.’’

Stephanie Vosk may be reached at svosk@ledger.com .

Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Thursday, July 06, 2006