NEW YORK — Journey is a service dog to 17 year old Sydney Collier, a para-dressage rider. Collier, suffers from a rare condition called Wyburn-Mason Syndrome which causes tumors in the brain.
Journey is helping the young rider to reach the prestigious World Equestrian Games, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Though first she will have to impress selectors at the U.S. Nationals to be held later this year, along with participating in two team qualifiers in Florida next January.
Collier, has been crowned the leading young para-dressage rider in North America; this despite being partially blind, having paralysis,Sy and a series of brain injuries.
Collier was the youngest rider to reach last year’s World Equestrian Games, though it was her Standard Poodle, Journey that stole the show.
“When I first heard I was getting a service dog, my dad and I jokingly said: ‘just as long as it’s not a standard poodle,'” says Collier.
Collier acknowledges how amazing her dog is, and is astounded at all the things he is capable of doing. Journey has become as famous as Collier, with him receiving official credentials at the World Equestrian Games, and stories all over the press.
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To reach the international level, Collier has had to overcome a lot of obstacles of the rare condition she was first diagnosed with at age seven. In 2009, she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side, but a year later while in Kentucky to watch the U.S. host the World Equestrian Games, she knew she had to do everything to follow her equestrian dreams.
The Collier family acquired use of a horse named Wentworth, and when Sydney fell and broke her collarbone after leaving a cinema, they decided a service dog could help.
“Over time, we’ve kind-of melded together into one. I forget I have him sometimes. It’s an amazing partnership,” says Sydney.
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The dog helps her walk, by following alongside her and acting like a cane. If Collier is about to fall, he braces all his muscles to keep her from falling. He picks up stuff that she drops, opens and closes doors and cabinets for her, turns lights on and off, and finds her mom if she falls.
The people who raised the dog as a puppy told the Colliers they couldn’t decide what to name him, they had two names to choose from Journey or Sydney, seems this match was meant to be.