Service dog, student make a dynamic duo

“I’m an absolute dog lover, so that’s just a bonus,” Davert said. COURTESY/MICHAELA DAVERT

“I’m an absolute dog lover, so that’s just a bonus,” Davert said. COURTESY/MICHAELA DAVERT

OU News Bureau

Chloe Davert can open doors, flip light switches and attend school, but she has to go to the bathroom outside.

She is a service dog for 17-year-old Michaela Davert, who has oestogenesis imperfecta type 3, a brittle bone condition that causes fragility and small stature. Even something as simple as sneezing or coughing may crack her ribs. Davert uses a wheelchair and has already racked up about 80 bone fractures in her lifetime.

Chloe is a 21-month-old golden retriever/Labrador mix. She is trained to help with physical tasks and has been on the job since the end of December. She can press elevator and automatic door buttons, retrieve items, reach up onto counters and more.

“My favorite thing that she does is help me pick things up off the floor,” Davert said. “It’s a lot of the little tasks that aren’t really a big deal to most people that really make a difference to me.”

Davert is a junior at John Glenn High School in Bay City. She hasn’t been able to attend school since breaking her legs and arm in a car crash at the beginning of January, but Chloe will accompany her when she goes back within the next couple of weeks.

During the school day, Chloe will lay under Davert’s desk, ready to retrieve anything that she drops.

“Whatever I need, she’ll be right by my side,” Davert said.

Although she hasn’t gone to school yet, Chloe has had lots of practice in public places. By law, she can go anywhere that Davert goes.

When Chloe wears her vest, she goes into work mode. PHOTO/PAIGE BROCKWAY

When Chloe wears her vest, she goes into work mode. PHOTO/PAIGE BROCKWAY

Chloe goes into work mode when she puts on her red “Please do not pet” vest. Although most people respect that Chloe is on the job, Davert said that adults actually distract her more often than children do.

At home, the rest of the family has to restrain from treating Chloe like a pet.

“It’s very difficult for the rest of my family. Sometimes they’ll get a pet in or two, but she is pretty much trained to bond with me so that she knows who her main master is, per say,” Davert said.

“It’s fine with me because I get to pet her and play with her whenever I want, but for everybody else, it’s really difficult. We realize that she’s not a family pet.”

Davert’s twin brother, Austin, who also has oestogenesis imperfecta, turned down the opportunity to get a service dog because of the responsibility — he prefers his pet guinea pig.

“Dogs are a lot of work, but for me it’s totally worth it,” Michaela Davert said.


Chloe was raised by a foster family for about a year before being adopted by Lori Grigg, founder of Paradise Dog Training in Fenton. The company trains service, hearing, therapy and bedbug detection dogs. Service dogs can be trained for specialties such as seizure and diabetic alerts.

Grigg estimates that she has trained between 100 and 150 dogs during her 30 years of experience. She usually trains three or four dogs at a time. Service dogs typically take about six months to train, and Grigg has a two-year waiting list.

Lori Grigg teaches Colt, a service dog in training, how to retrieve dropped items. PHOTO/PAIGE BROCKWAY

Lori Grigg of Paradise Dog Training teaches Colt, a service dog in training, how to retrieve dropped items. PHOTO/PAIGE BROCKWAY

“As much as this pulls at your heartstrings, it is a business, too,” she said.

She charges $15,000 to $18,000 for service dogs, $8,000 for therapy dogs and $12,000 to $15,000 for bedbug detection dogs. Service dogs are rarely covered by insurance.

“Most insurance companies don’t cover this. They figure it’s a luxury, not a necessity,” Grigg said.

Davert raised the money for Chloe by setting up a P.O. box for donations from friends and family. It took her a little over a month to collect $15,000.

After passing certain health and temperament clearances, Chloe was trained in Grigg’s home. The Davert family started meeting with Grigg at the end of November so that Chloe could get used to Davert’s wheelchair and practice in public.

Now that Chloe has moved into her new home, Grigg continues to work with her and will go to school with Davert for a few days to smooth the transition.

Down the Road

After graduating, Davert hopes to move to Los Angeles to attend Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, majoring in cosmetic marketing. Chloe, of course, would tag along.

Grigg said that most service dogs have a working life of 10 to 12 years. Chloe will eventually get to retire when physical tasks become difficult for her.

Davert predicts that her parents will take care of Chloe at that point, so she can enjoy life as a dog. She’s not sure if she will want to get another service dog. In the meantime, she is focused on loving Chloe.

“Right now I couldn’t imagine any other one than Chloe,” Davert said. “She’s amazing.”

Click here for more information about Paradise Dog Training, or visit Facebook.


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Posted by on Jan 30 2015. Filed under Featured article, Oakland County. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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