For people with disabilities and special needs, service dogs are truly a lifesaver. Their four-legged companions are there through day and night to help them accomplish their daily tasks. These animals play such an important role in their lives, and the bond that is forged between service dog and owner is something that’s unbreakable.
That is exactly what Michael Cantu and his service dog, Toli, have – a solid bond strengthened by two years of being each other’s best friend.
During his teenage years, Michael was a football player for Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. He was immensely gifted in the sport, but the lad wanted to explore other sports that were more radical and less mainstream, such as snowboarding and skiing.
But in 2011, everything changed for the adventurous and outgoing teen.
While practicing for extreme sports before the start of the school year, Michael accidentally broke his neck. According to his dad, Aaron, his son “was using a springboard to vault a pommel horse when something went wrong and he came down on his neck.”
When they arrived at the hospital, doctors broke the devastating news – Michael broke several vertebrae in his neck, and these injuries caused him to be paralyzed.
After experiencing countless surgeries, pain, and depression, Michael is in a much better place today. Throughout his recovery, he had an incredible support group behind him, composed of family, friends, school mates, and the people he met through his sports endeavors.
In 2017, a furry, four-legged member was added to that group. Through the Canine Companions for Independence, Michael was given a service dog named Anatoli.
And from there, Michael’s life was changed once again – this time, for the better. That day, he earned not just a service dog, but a best friend, too.
This month, that dog is celebrating a very special occasion – her 4th birthday! Of course, Michael wanted to make this day extraordinary for his best buddy and supporter.
Michael shared with The Dodo how great of a help Toli has been:
“He’s been with me every step of the way since I got him. He helps me open doors and drawers, turn on/off lights, picks up things I drop, etc.”
For his birthday, instead of Michael picking out something that he’s not even sure his pup would like, he decided to let the celebrant himself choose his gift!
The duo went to the plaything aisle at a local pet store so Toli could pick out his gift. It looked like the pooch understood the purpose of the trip, as he sniffed and went through each bin they passed until he finally chose the plush toy of his choice.
Here’s the adorable moment Toli found his new favorite toy:
“This has kinda become a tradition on his birthday. He loves taking naps and cuddling with his toys,” Michael said.
This time, Toli picked out a plush rabbit toy as his new buddy. That rabbit is now named Chungus, and Michael says that Toli takes it with him everywhere he goes. How cute!
Toli surely looks happy with Chungus. Just look at that smile on his face!
Happy birthday, Toli! For being a great service dog, you deserve nothing but the best.