Melinda poses with her new service dog, Krista.

Melinda poses with her new service dog, Krista.

A Simi Valley woman has been given new hope in the battle against a debilitating disease, thanks to a new friend: Krista the service dog from Canine Companions for Independence.

“Krista’s really helpful, especially when I drop things, because she can retrieve them for me,” said Krista’s new owner, Melinda. “She opens doors and pushes drawers closed in my bathroom and the kitchen.”

Krista, a black Labrador/golden retriever cross, is trained in about 40 commands to help Melinda, who is suffering with a mitochondrial disorder that can cause ataxia and spastic paraplegia. Melinda and Krista trained together at an intense two-week training course in Oceanside, where the duo learned how to work with each other safely and effectively.

“I still want to just pinch myself,” said Melinda. “I can’t believe that I’ve been matched with such a great dog. I’m so happy!”

All follow-up training and support are offered free of charge by Canine Companions for Independence. For more information on the organization, visit www.cci.org.