CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA — A Cedar Rapids teenager is feeling lost without his service dog.
Joey Damisch is a sophomore at Kennedy High School. He has autism. And his dog, Sparky, used to help him get through classes each day.
Just last week, Sparky was diagnosed with tetanus, which is fairly rare in dogs. Complications from that left Sparky with pneumonia, he’s now battling his for his life at Iowa State University.
“Sometimes I get a little sad cause I miss him,” Joey said. “The first day I took him to school I was a little nervous but after that day I felt more confident,” he said.
Joey’s only had Sparky for about a year. Sparky went through training so he could go to school and be a registered service dog.
“When I go to school I take him, he’s always by my side,” he said.
Joey says Sparky gives him more confidence.
“If I’m giving a speech I’m less nervous with him. He makes me more happy,” he said.
Joey’s parents agree.
“Joey used to have a para at his school to help him get through school. So what we’ve done is transition the service dog to replace the para and now he no longer needs a para,” Gwen Damisch said.
“He carries small things pencils my phone,” Joey said.
And even teaches him some responsibility.
“I take him out to go to the bathroom and I give him food at lunch time when I eat my lunch,” Joey said.
Joey says his friends are noticing a difference.
“My friends are worried about him. They try to keep me positive like Sparky will be okay and Sparky will come back,” he said.
While Joey’s thankful for the fundraisers for Sparky’s medical bills and the support people are showing him what he wants most, is his best friend to come back home.
“I hope he gets better and comes back to school and lives a normal life after that,” Joey said.
The Damisch family believes doctors found the area in Sparky that was infected.
Sparky did have to undergo a surgery to remove one of his toes.
The family says they should know more in about a month if Sparky will survive.
The family does have an online fundraiser for Sparky at: https://www.gofundme.com/2sqk54gg