The “I” in Parkinson’s
February 10, 2015
February 28, 2015
The “I” in Parkinson’s
February 10, 2015
February 28, 2015

Handling It

Sir ThomasNew Englanders tend toward a handle-it-on-our-own, we’ll-find-a-way-through hardiness that holds self-reliance on a pedestal as high as our current snow banks. Slam us with endless snowfall? We have shovels. More record wind chills? Throw another log on the fire.

A gimpy leg and balance issues make it difficult to drive a snow blower or wield an axe. No problem, I’d planned a way to handle it earlier this winter:

  • Confirm driveway clearing service: √
  • Check generator: √
  • Add “Chop Wood” to Honey-Do List
  • Praise Sir Thomas each time he:
    • Slogs through parking lot slush without concern √
    • Stands in ridiculously cold temperatures while I fumble with gloves to open the door √
    • Woofs only once at the mailman (who delivers to our door each time the mailbox gets decapitated by the plow)

Last week, while my son was at school and my husband away on business, the power went out. No problem, I thought. I can handle this on my own: there’s a generator. I waited for it to kick in.

I put on another sweater and waited some more.

It was getting mighty nippy inside. Again, I thought, no problem. There’s a key. I know where it is and how to use it. Self-reliant-me can start it manually.

Key in hand, I glanced out the window and plotted my path out to it. I donned my boots and wondered about the size of them and the depths of the snow. No problem, I thought, and added snow shoes to the solution.

From the doorway, I gazed at the mass of white between me and the generator. Not too far, really. But, though Tommy had found it great fun to rescue me a la Saint Bernard-style in the backyard, the drifts across that short distance were thicker and much less inviting. Even Saint Sir Thomas would struggle in that tundra.

Strapped into snowshoes, key in hand and Sir Thomas at my side, I imagined my PD-challenged body out there, belly-up like a bug, unable to right itself. Thomas would be nearby shivering both from the cold and the anxiety of not being able to get either one of us to safe ground.

I unstrapped, untied, unzipped, stuffed self-reliance in my pocket with the generator key and called the fire department’s non-emergency line.

What little sense of hardiness that remained in my New England veins drained at the sight of three men in full regalia emerging from the truck. When they stepped inside, though, each was quick with a smile and easy laughter, bringing in a warmth even before getting the generator humming.

“Thank you,” I said to each as they headed back to their truck.

The last one glanced at Tommy and asked, “Is that one of Carlene’s dogs?”

I nodded.

“Thank you,” he said. “You made my day.”

I can handle that.

* Note: For anyone unfamiliar with Carlene White, she is the founder of the  Service Dog Project which raises and trains Great Danes as mobility service dogs for the disabled


  1. AJAY says:

    OMG can’t believe he knew it was Carlene/SDP’s! So glad you decided against it 🙂

  2. I just love it, the fire and police men are just wonderful 🙂

    • Renee says:

      Agreed! And, I’ve learned that in a time of emergency, I’m now down on the ‘books’ as having a service dog. The dispatcher will be able to let first responders know that wherever they take me, Sir T goes, too.

  3. Nancy Hirsch says:

    I am a New Englander too (CT) so I know what you mean, but it never hurts to ask for help when needed. This is a harsh, dangerous winter. Your experience does have a great ending…thanks for sharing your life. You have a wonderful way with words.

  4. Kristen Cappucci says:

    Renee always enjoy your stories and who couldn’t love you and Sir!! We have good fire guys to come to the rescue sir should get a honorary hat and badge!!!

  5. Theresa Campbell says:

    What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing! I watch SDP live cams and enjoy watching the service dogs being born and growing and becoming an appendage to those who could use an extra.

  6. Mary Beth doyle says:

    Renee, such a beautiful piece, written with elegance. To be able to ask for help allowed grace for all. I’m in Vermont these years freezing at -23 tonight! Will see Eileen during a visit to texas in a few weeks. Peace, Mary Beth Doyle

  7. Alice Deaton says:


    You are a self reliant woman and you and Sit Thomas certainly deserve to be helped…glad you called. Wasn’t it awesome that one of the guys recognized Sir Thomas as Carlene’s dog??

    BTW..when I ordered the shirt from you I thought I would never get to wear it here in Florida, but last week we had a cold snap and I wore my shirt proudly and it kept me warm.
    Thank you for all you do!!

    • Renee says:

      Thanks! (Maybe I should drop a T-shirt off at the fire dept for that third man – wouldn’t he be surprised!)

  8. kathy wilkins says:

    Renee, was routed to your blog site through DD. After reading this one, I began reading through your archived blogs. TY for sharing your life in words with Sir T. I read the DD daily and check in on the explore site once in a while. Reading about the dogs out in the field doing their job makes me appreciate what SDP does all the more.

    • Renee says:

      So kind. And I’m glad you get a closer glimpse of SDP. I was just there yesterday. A wonderful place, indeed.

  9. You made my day as well! We don’t half to do everything ourselves anymore! So glad that the fire dept. Could help..I have a son with the Los Angeles City Fire Dept.

  10. Mandy Stockley says:

    That is an absolutely priceless story, and well told. As a CP, I sat here laughing and clapping at the ending. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful stories of life with Sir Thomas!

  11. Debra Merlino says:

    Sometimes self reliance is not defined as dong it yourself but as knowing who to call to get it done. You took care of it, you did not leave it for someone else to do. Your reputation is safe!

  12. Renee says:

    Thanks, Debra! I just need to keep reminding myself that Common sense does appear in the dictionary before self-reliance. 🙂

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