Adventures with Moxie

October 7, 2019

One good deed—or in this case, dog—deserves another. That’s the inspiration behind Moxie’s Mission.

Katie Harris with Moxie.

Moxie’s Mission is the brainchild of Katie Harris, who was born with a disabling condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome—and whose life has been greatly enriched by a mini-goldendoodle named Moxie, her service dog in training. Salonpas sat down with Wellness Warrior, Katie Harris, to learn more about how Moxie changed her life and how she became the inspiration to help others.

“Moxie has changed my life,” says Katie, a high school social worker. “I want to give this amazing gift to someone else who needs it but can’t afford it on their own.”  

A fully-trained service dog costs $15,000-$20,000, depending on what tasks the pup is trained to perform. All funds raised by the charity run will be donated to the American Service Dog Association in Kansas City, a 501c3 non-for-profit.

“Never Much of a Dog Person”

Although Katie was born with Ehlers Danlos—a rare disease of the connective tissue that causes overly-flexible joints, easily-bruised, elastic skin and fragile organs—she wasn’t diagnosed until 2011. Over the years, Katie endured many hospitalizations, surgeries and joint dislocations, as well as chronic pain. Last year, she started using a wheel chair.

At the same time, she became obsessed with getting a dog. Although never much of a dog person (she had been bitten as a child), she fell in love with her father’s goldendoodle and acquired Moxie as a companion dog. As her health declined, she began working with the American Service Dog Association to train Moxie as her service dog. Moxie now accompanies Katie to school every day and is close to completing her training.

About the American Service Dog Association

The ASDA trains and provides service dogs to qualifying individuals suffering from physical and mental disabilities, as well as autism and PTSD. They teach dogs to pull wheelchairs, push handicapped buttons, open and close doors, retrieve dropped objects—even deposit trash and fetch a ringing phone.

Dogs in the program live in the home of their trainer and can require up to two years of intensive training. Because of the high cost involved with their training, living expenses and vet care, there is a tremendous demand for service dogs—a demand Katie is determined to help meet.  

How does Moxie helped Katie in her day to day life as a school social worker?

Moxie has impacted my life in ways I never thought were possible. Due to my diagnosis, my joints are very unstable and struggled greatly with positional changes/bending over. It might seem like a little thing for most people, but the fact that Moxie can pick up essentially anything I drop is not a small thing to me. However, that’s not the only way she helps me. Moxie has a natural medical alert and began alerting to me before seizures. That gave me quite a bit of confidence to be able to go to work as a school social worker, knowing that if something were going to happen, I would be made aware of before. Moxie also helps open some doors, retrieves items, and can get water from the refrigerator for me. Those are the physical things she does for me, but it goes far beyond that. 

Moxie helps emotionally and mentally. She is companionship and has given me a focus and distraction as I was greatly involved in the training process. She helps me be able to “get out of the house” and not just stay inside. I truly believe she has saved me.

What was the catalyst to create Moxie’s Mission?

I was in a low, low place and I lost quite a bit. I know longer was able to play tennis or any sports. I was relying on a wheelchair and had no idea when I was going to pass out/have a seizure again. Mentally, I was struggling to the point of not even wanting to live. It got to the point that I was at a crossroads. The situation is what it is…what was I going to do? Quit? Or find a way to live this life and make it meaningful? I chose the second option. I needed to stop focusing on what I couldn’t do and start figuring out things I could do. Booker T. Washington has a quote, “to lift yourself up, lift someone else up.” I was so thankful for Moxie and knew that there were so many people out there that could benefit from what I have, however, are not able to do it the way I did. They require a fully trained service dog, yet the cost makes it not possible for them. So I came up with the crazy idea to fully fund, fully trained service dogs to gift to individuals that qualify through the 501 c3 organization, American Service Dog Association in St. Louis. Moxie’s Mission is really about just paying it forward and making a difference. Raising the finances for a fully trained service dog is just one large scale way we are trying to do that.

What is Moxie’s Mission goal over the next few years?

The goal for Moxie’s Mission is to continue to pay it forward and make a difference. Once this service dog is fully funded, my hope is to start looking and planning for the next one! 

Describe a typical day in your life; from when you wake up to when you go to sleep.

I don’t know if I ever have a “typical” day being a social worker! However, this day would be as typical as I can think of:

I wake up and start to get ready for work. I try to give Moxie some exercise first before we head into work, because some days she’s in my office not very active. She either goes on the treadmill, we go around the neighborhood, or play some ball. I head into work and depending on the day will meet with students, have staff meetings, or I’m in classrooms. I absolutely love my job! Unfortunately, it does still take a lot out of me, so after work and on weekends, I typically just head home if I don’t have physical therapy. However, at home, I work with Moxie in regards to continued training, do what I need to with Moxie’s Mission, watch TV, or take a nice hot bath.