Cydney Smith lives in a working ranch in the Yucca Valley. A small town in the San Bernardino Mountains, known as the “gateway” to the Joshua Tree National Park.
She and her husband Brian, a retired Riverside Sheriff Deputy, spend their long days overseeing the daily chores that come with running a small ranch.
For Cydney, ranch life is her way of life.
Even when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, at the age of 42, she didn’t plan on slowing down until it was time.
That time finally arrived at the age of 56.
“Symptoms vary per person, per health issue … but having trouble with balance is common.” Smith said. “I go to physical therapy to help with balance and strengthening and I have a gym at home to help too … my goal is to stay out of the wheelchair as along as I can.”
As Cydney’s challenges with balance continued, she began to consider ideas for getting the help she needs when her husband isn’t around.
She finally found it with the introduction of an 8-month-old dog named Cutter.
“Someone asked me what I thought getting a service dog,” Smith said. “I didn’t even know it was possible.”
In a happy chance her husband Brian saw a dog posted on a Facebook page by another member of the Riverside Sheriff’s Department – it was an 8-month-old Belgian Malinois looking for a new home and a new purpose in life.
Soon enough, Cutter started his life with Cydney, but there was training to be done.
The Smith’s were able to get the proper training for Cutter thanks to a $2,500.00 grant they received from the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association.
The RSA is an active member of the vast Riverside region and helps its law enforcement family members, but also the community-at-large. They provide legal and financial assistance, but also a general fund with its Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation, which offers aid for all RSA families who need help.
Donations for the foundations are made by the community, members of the RSA and with annual fundraising events.
Cydney and Brian wrote in a request for financial assistance to help with training Cutter at Custom K9s in Wisconsin, a dog training facility with a focus on balance training. They were awarded the grant and Cutter soon began his training.
“When Cutter got here, he had no training whatsoever, he wasn’t even really house broken. So, we had to start from the beginning with him,” Cydney said. “We’ve done basic obedience, basic commands and bracing, which is showing him how to stand next to me, so I can push on his shoulders … we still have to work on that quite a bit.”
With the funding the Smith’s received from the RSA, Custom K9’s will be able to offer training to Cutter for the rest of his life.
They will continue to train him and when Cydney’s symptoms change, Cutter will be trained to meet those needs.
It’s a comfort she hadn’t known she needed, until she had it.
These days Cutter can be found right by her side, even when she’s riding her horses, Cutter trots alongside them.
At nearly 70 pounds and almost a year-old, Cutter is full grown, but he still has all of the personality traits of a Belgian Malinois puppy. He is playful and silly and can’t help but get distracted when he sees Cydney’s grandson and hopes playtime is afoot.
But the moment Cydney puts his collar on him, it’s all business for Cutter.
“He always knows when I am talking to him because he looks right at me. And once he has that collar on, he never leaves my side,” said Smith. “You can tell a service dog by how its acting. They are well behaved. When I stop, he sits. If I am standing for more than a minute, he lays down. As soon as I am ready, he waits for my command. We are doing great together.”
To learn more about the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation.