February 5, 2016

Tommy Takes a Sick Day

I’m used to me waking in the wee hours to use the bathroom. When Sir Thomas wakes me to use the outdoors, it’s a sign something’s not right. The first protocol, given that he didn’t show any other signs of distress – no fever, no unusual behavior, no breathing issues, no tender areas – is to let his system settle down. Try and rationalize with a 145-pound dog that it’s in his best interest not to eat for twenty-four hours. Next, explain to the dentist office the need to reschedule because the dog is sick. I could’ve elaborated on the, er, size if the problem when ‘Great Dane’ and ‘diarrhea’ are used in the same sentence. Beyond the risk of needing a major cleanup, it’s not fair for me to ask him to work when his tummy isn’t well. When we’re out and about, he’s my steed, my regal Dane […]
February 3, 2016

Park It Somewhere Else

So a state rep pulls into a handicapped spot… No, wait, his wife does… She’ll ‘only be a few moments…” See story here Have a few moments? To someone with a disability — MS, Parkinson’s, veteran’s with head injuries, amputees — the words, ‘I’ll only be a few moments’ don’t exist. It takes a us a few extra moments to slip an arm through a shirt sleeve, to sip our coffee, to cut a piece of chicken or take a bite of salad, to undo the twist-tie on a loaf of bread, to get socks on. It took quite a few moments for that disabled person to get to that very parking space. Rep Hess’s actions of pointing to his wife and adding that he had elective surgery on his hip were transparent veils the news reporter should’ve seen through. Hess represents the people of his state. Don’t blame the […]
February 3, 2016

Tommy in the News

Parkinson’s Life magazine, featuring Sir Thomas: Service dogs are often associated with blind people, but furry four-legged creatures are a way upward and forward with Parkinson’s. Read more    
January 18, 2016

What’s His Name

After three-plus years, I continue to be taken aback when strangers see Sir Thomas and me, acknowledge that they’ve read the various Do Not Pet, Mobility Dog, Ignore Me I’m Working tags and patches and, yet, they still ask his name. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s a friendly request made out of genuine curiosity, My hesitation in answering stems from that one percent who’ll then call out his name. It takes only once to distract him, leaving me to crash into the avocado display at the grocery store or face-plant onto the floor at the Delta check-in counter. For safety’s sake, I often respond with a smile and a fake name. Today, while enjoying a breakfast-served-all-day lunch with my husband and our son, Tommy dutifully napped on his mat beside our table. A couple stepped in and as they passed by, I sensed their pace slowing. “Aw.” I heard and […]
December 22, 2015

In Memory of Tess

My mother read murder mysteries with the same zeal that Sir Thomas arranges his fluffies before circling down to sleep. She could check out a dozen from the library and be back for more a few days later. After she passed away, I found a whodunit on her nightstand. Yellow flags stuck out from the pages. Handwriting I didn’t recognize listed character names and cryptic notes: red dress and flashlight. I cringed at how, in the end, the morphine fog must have confused her and kept her from the stories she so enjoyed. What I discovered later was that her hospice aide brought the sticky tags to the house. She’d jotted the notes so my mother could keep the characters straight and continue to do what she so enjoyed through to the end. I never got the chance to meet or thank my mother’s hospice caretaker for the simple act […]
December 17, 2015

“Does He Ever Get to Be, You Know, Just a Dog?”

Strangers often ask me that question, as though Sir Thomas’ harness is akin to a cubicle. If by ‘just a dog,’ they mean romping and napping and snacking on treats, look at the shine in his coat and the spring in his step for the answer. If by ‘just a dog,’ they mean snoring the night away in a snuggie bed in the same room with his human, most certainly. Each night, I tuck Sir Thomas into his bed, his favorite fluffies under and around him, and I whisper, Thank You. I want him to know that not only was he a Good Boy all day – he’s such a good boy – but also that I appreciate what he does. On one hand, I expect him to do his job and do it well. He’s not ‘just a dog,’ he’s a service dog. He was raised and trained to […]
December 1, 2015

Melissa and Tanner

Sir Thomas and I encounter people everyday who sing his praises and seem genuinely moved by the ways he helps me move. On rare occasions, I meet other service dog handlers and the amazing dogs that help them move. Melissa and Tanner are one of those pairs. Though our encounter was brief, it took only those few moments to witness the bond this young partnership already shares. One focused on not letting the other fail while the other remained determined not to fail. This is their story: Can you imagine hearing the words “your baby girl probably won’t live”? Those are the words my mother heard in 1978 when I was born very prematurely. My mother, then only 21, almost lost her life as well during childbirth, but ultimately we survived together that day and lived to fight for many more. When I clearly proved to the doctors that I was going […]
November 14, 2015

Bella and George

If you haven’t seen this story, here it is. Why we love these service dogs and their impact on our lives: The story of Bella and George  
November 11, 2015

Stepping through November

We’re well into November, the month that dusk falls ridiculously early, the days keep getting shorter and shadows longer. Let’s not forget the wind. The gusts have already whipped the last color from the maple trees. Despite the wet, cold and dark, I find this segue into winter to be a prime time to gaze overhead. Not at the stars. Closer, at skeletal branches that the winds have exposed. When I gaze up, I notice what summertime canopies hid from my view: how the trees catch each other. I look around and it’s as though I’m looking at a family. Evergreens seem to reach out to fallen birch while oaks support uprooted beech and alder. There are saplings intertwined with an older sibling, couples leaning on each other, whole stands providing support. No wonder that November marks National Family Caregiver’s month. No coincidence, either, that it’s the same month we recognize […]
October 7, 2015

Island Living

A dame with a Dane walks into the library… I’m not kidding. Being the new kid on the Island, I’m trying to settle in. For me, the official I Have Arrived document (following my driver’s license) is a library card. After asking where the library is located, Sir Thomas and I ventured out. We heard the usual greetings as we entered — Handsome! You Could Put a Saddle on Him. I Love Your Dog! Thomas and I continued toward the information desk. The librarian took one look, rose from her chair with her hand extended and said, “You must be Renee.” Small Island, I thought. With a big smile, the librarian added, “The Dame with a Dane.” It turns out that the delightful Service Dog Project CP* I’d enjoyed lunch with here on the Island is the president of the Friends of the Library. Small world. It may take me […]