Ethel the Service Dog Saves the Day

As per usual, a few days ago I found myself sprawled out on the bathroom floor after a terrific fall from my chair. I’m a klutz and transferring is no easy feat for me. Luckily, I have this tremendous service Great Dane in my life who gets so excited to see me on the floor. She knows that when I’ve taken a fall, it’s time for her to work and work means cookies for doing a good job. It doesn’t matter if I’m crying or cursing from the pain of the fall, the prettiest blue eyed service dog is tails-wagging-happy for the chance to work. She’s pretty unbelievably wonderful and to make it more believable, I took advantage of this last fall and recorded her help. Enjoy!

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She Takes Me to the Sun

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It’s a new day and a new season to relaunch But Maybe She Wheel adventures!

Thank you everyone for your patience as I ducked out of the blogosphere to focus on studying for the medical college admission test. I’m happy to say that the weeks of 8+ hour days studying paid off and I’m returning with nothing but excitement for my professional future.

It has been exactly one year since I paired with Ethel and a year ago today we left the Service Dog Project Crazy Acres Farm after two weeks of training to begin our lives together. Today, in my heart, is our anniversary, the “gotcha” day, the day that Ethel joined our lives and forever changed mine.

Through the ups and downs of the year and lessons I’ve learned in pairing with a Service Dane, there’s a layer of underlying routines that happened every day and will continue to happen every day. The routine of meal times, having every head turn when we go out to the store, get the mail or go to the gym and of the twice a day long walk we take are now stitched into the fabric of every day life together. And it is the long walk that is the unsung hero in our life together that I want to illuminate for our one year anniversary.

No matter the life and the state of the body performing in that life, there are hardships too great to bear sometimes. Pain is a relative beast that may appear to be the largest grizzly towering overhead in one person’s life while only the size of a bear cup in comparison to another. I lose perspective sometimes when I’ve fallen overboard into anxiety or sadness. It’s not hard to do and it takes a strength that I oftentimes don’t remember I have to climb my way on board again. Strength… or a Great Dane.

With this God given sixth sense dogs have, Ethel knew at these points how far my heart had fallen. She would respond with taking one of her big paws and whacking at the wheels of my chair or at my legs, which is her *subtle* way of telling me she wants to go for a walk. And when Ethel wants to go for a walk, it’s not long before any ignored whacks turn into two baby blue eyes sorrowfully staring just a few inches from my face. Ok, let’s go for a walk.

Because she knows what I need at those moments I can only get from the wind, from the fresh air and from the sun. My mother’s favorite flower was the sunflower and like the sunflower, she’d follow the yellow star as it’d make its’ arc through the sky throughout of the day. I inherited this need to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and fill on its’ energy in my spirit. It’s when I’m overboard in the depths of my emotions that only sunshine can remind me of warmth that comes from knowing God is still by my side, of patience to see the storm through and of hope that world still has sunny days. Ethel knows this. Even on the days out of vest and off duty, when I need it, my service Dane, my friend and my hero takes me to the sun.

Great Dane, service dog, paraplegic

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‘Til We Meet Again

Hello all! Thank you for all your comments, views, thoughts and sharing of your heart over this past year. I’ve truly enjoyed writing about our travels, my giant baby Little Miss Ethel and what it really means to live disabled in an able bodied world. I’m going to take a break from writing for a bit so that I can pursue a lifelong goal and something I never stopped working towards; I’m applying to medical school! After my accident, I finished my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and completed a Neuroscience thesis to earn an Honors degree. I have not and will not give up on this goal and I’m taking some time to allow for focus. I may post photos of our adventures from time to time, but I won’t be writing. Thank you for all your encouragement towards my book (talking to publishers now!) and I can’t wait to talk again soon. Thank you.

See You Soon

 

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Finding Ethel: Part 3, Service Dog Project Fest 2015

SDP Fest 2015
SDP Fest 2015
SDP Fest 2015
SDP Fest 2015

Ethel, my mother-in-law, and myself were given the generous gift of appearing at the Service Dog Project Annual Fest to speak about the impact Ethel has had on my life. A weekend is not long enough to speak of her help, her affirmation of my own strength, and the continual gift she’s been to me.

 

The three of us boarded our first plane ride together in St. Louis and unsurprisingly, Ethel did fantastic on the flight. Her legs are too long to be laying down when people are walking on the aisle, so I had Ethel stand up on the courtesy free seat Southwest Airline had given us. She put her front paws on the seat and towered over the aisles as she watched passengers awkwardly climb over each other to get to their seats. If she was thinking like I was, then she too was judging their choice of airline attire of each passenger.

On the plane to SDP Fest 2015
On the plane to SDP Fest 2015

I painted her toes for the flight and tied a big pink ribbon around her neck that she wore for the crowd at SDP as well. It is absolutely, 100% not her personality to be near anything pink, let alone suffer through a pedicure of “Petal Pink” polish. But it’s my personality to do all this and, well, she didn’t stop me.

 

We landed in Boston and made our way through the notorious Boston traffic. My mother-in-law had never traveled east of PA and was enthralled in the river and harbors of the city. After touring Boston and taking the obligatory “holding a tea bag over the Boston Harbor” tourist pictures, we made our way to Crazy Acres Farm. I wrote Carlene of SDP about my experience with Ethel in Boston:

Legal Sea Foods
Legal Sea Foods
Tea. In the Boston Harbor. Get it? Don't worry. Unlike those Patriots, we didn't litter.
Tea. In the Boston Harbor. Get it? Don’t worry. Unlike those Patriots, we didn’t litter.

 

“Widda Great Dane, e’erybody yor Naybuh”

 

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing more charming than a friendly face speaking a Boston accent. We always enjoy traveling back East, but this was our first time returning to the Boston area with Ethel. And this time, I’ve never encountered so many new “naybuhs jus’ wantin’ ta halp”.

 

It was incredible, heads turned, people stood, chairs were pushed in and cars stopped whenever we went by. All through downtown to north end to the back bay neighborhoods of Boston, I got offers for help from some of the friendliest Bostonians I’d ever met. People have this reaction to Ethel in the Midwest, as well, but this was a remarkably different Boston than I’d known before.

“Gawd, dat’s a huss ya got dere!” We heard over and over again, but left and right strange things were happening. First our rental car got upgraded without asking because Ethel had the bluest eyes our attendant had ever seen. Then our parking ticket for the garage got validated without needing a payment from a nice gentlemen who owned a Corgie himself. Then “wadduh” was brought out to Ethel by strangers whenever we stopped for coffee or to eat or even just to rest for little while. People moved aside in lines, mainly so they could snap photos of us. Our table at dinner was in a remote spot with beautiful scenary looking over the Harbor, while people crowded in the terrace. What was happening?

 

I can only deduce that Bwahstan, a favorite city already, is a city of people who appreciate relationships. Bostonians responded to the relationship I have with Ethel with the friendliness of a “naybuh”, love responding in kind to love.

I knew I gained a travel buddy with Ethel. I didn’t know I’d also gain the help and kindness of hundreds of new “naybuhs” as well.

____________________

 

We drove north through the city and up past Beverly. Ethel, usually enjoying a nap in the backseat while traveling, suddenly popped her head out the window sniffing the air as we approached the turn in to the farm. Then the tail began to swing and as we approached the gate to the farm, her whole body began to wiggle with excitement. She was back.

SDP Fest 2015 SDP Fest 2015

When I met Ethel, she wasn’t so much a fan of other people as she just wasn’t interested in them. You don’t have a cookie for me? Then I’m not going to stay still to let you pet me. She’d sniff a person to introduce herself when a friend approached me and she’s off vest, but then she’d retreat back to my side with no interest in making friends. Although she has great social skills with dogs and humans, she’s just didn’t seem to be a very social girl. My little introvert would rather live alone with me in a cabin in the middle of the woods than sit through a doggy tea party with my friends and their dogs. Which is too bad, because that’s exactly what I love to do.

 

But when we hopped out of the car and were immediately greeted by Service Dog Project friends, Ethel excitedly ran from person to person to sniff hands and pockets for treats. She sniffed the other dogs with her tail wagging and ran back and forth from person or dog to me with the biggest smile. My little introvert, loving spending time in this great crowd of her family.

SDP Fest 2015

All weekend this continued. Ethel would be by my side when I called and when I needed her, slowing down to pull me back and forth across the Crazy Acres grounds. But as soon as I told her to go play, she’d run through the tents set up to meet everyone and use her beautiful blue eyes to swindle treats from the pockets of the SDP family. When she saw trainers Kati and Meg, I worried that maybe she’d forget that I was her human and she’d want to stay with them. But after she ran to each of her trainers, she’d gallop back to me with a huge smile as if to say “Mom! My friends! My friends are here!”

Over the weekend, her confidence mounted. At the beginning of our pairing together, I had slowly been given glimmers and a glimpse of her real personality. Over the six months we’ve been paired now, those glimmers are part of our everyday life. She’ll sassily paw at me when she wants attention or doesn’t want to do the command. She protects her friends Max the Husky and Rocco the Boxer by leading the way when they explore the parks. She likes her back scratched more than her ears. While she’ll walk away from Dusty when he offers a hand for rubbing, she’ll lean against him firmly to make sure he’ll scratch her back when she wants it and come to him when he calls. Her favorite position for sleeping is her head hanging over her bed and her arms and legs outstretched, groaning and grunting like an old man all night.

 

This wasn’t the Ethel I met my first time at Crazy Acres but this is the real Ethel that I know the SDP family knew and loved from her birth. And now I know her too.

SDP Fest 2015

I promised a surprise in my last post and I announced the news during the “Question & Answer” session of the Fest. I’m so thankful for all the encouragement I’ve been given in my writing by all you and more and I am happy to say that your kind words were not unheard. I have written a book!

Finding Ethel

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