It Takes a Village To Raise a Service Dog.
From the town crazy lady (and her wacky idea that a Great Dane can help with mobility) to the skilled trainers, dedicated volunteers and supportive neighbors (living nearby or just a camera’s blink away), each plays a role in bringing up a pup.
When I met Thomas, he lived with a community at the Service Dog Project (SDP) that gave him his name (a volunteer, Jackie, I’m told) his socializing (Hillary’s mom had him for many a sleepover), and his training (Colleen, Hillary and Megan). That community welcomed me with open arms and a lead with a monkey fist attached. It was my turn to learn to take care of the service dog that would take care of me.
The idea of telling the story of this village hit me like the side of a barn. Or, more accurately, the front of a barn. When I saw the SDP laundry barn with its fresh coat of paint last fall, I envisioned it with a mural, with the varied colors of dogs represented: mantel, merle, harlequin. Though I’d never painted a mural, when I learned I’d be moving to the west coast before this fall, I envisioned what I might need to create this parting gift in appreciation for the gift of Sir T.
It Takes a Village To Raise a Mural.
From the fellow artist who loaned her oversized studio (which could accommodate six 4-foot-by-4-foot panels) and huge amounts of time to my understanding husband and some dear, dear friends, each contributed to this project. Margaret helped prime boards and offered an artist’s eye when I needed it. Without her, I couldn’t have even started.
With packing still to do, open houses to clean for, a house out west to consider, Andy watched me leave in the afternoon without comment.
I left lists without picking up a pen to mark off any items. I left dust without picking up a cloth. I left for the aforementioned studio and picked up brushes and rollers. Sometimes I’d come home and remember dinner. Sometimes, he’d offer to get ice cream for dinner. (Yep, he’s a keeper.)
The day I mentioned I might be finishing up soon, he had the drill, screws, level and engineering plan for raising the mural. Motivated only in part by my being home to face the packing, his main intention was to help. Since I’m not the climb-a-ladder-with-a-giant-board-in-hand kind of girl, the panels wouldn’t have made it to SDP without him.
The transport and mounting would not have happened without Jon and Andrea. They provided a pickup truck (everyone needs a friend with a pickup truck) and have always provided a heartwarming, compassionate pick-me-up whenever needed (everyone needs friends like that).
Thank you volunteers, and in particular, village photographer Camera Mark who added his skill in documenting the mural-raising. Thank you, Mark. And all of the SDP neighbors – nearby and by camera – none of this story of service dogs could happen for future recipients without your support.
And while I skipped out on packing and dinner and heavy lifting to tell the story of this village, there’s another story. During the process of painting the mural, Tommy hoisted me off the floor, got me unstuck mid-paint stroke, guided me throughout the room when I needed it. I truly couldn’t have completed this gift without the help of my guy, my gift. Such a good boy.
It Takes a Village To Raise Awareness.
Even with a gorgeous Dane by my side, saying disabled and I in the same sentence did not come easily. The village full of supporters helped. As did a gorgeous soul with a Dane by her side. With Lynne, I found the voice to speak up, to speak out about service dogs, to shout out about friendship, to call out for others to bring service dog awareness to their locales.
I’ve started packing. My “Service Dogs Lead from the Heart” Tshirts are in the same box as a stack of brochures.
I’ll be spreading the word westward. This Dame with Dane may be leaving town but I’m not leaving this community.