I’m Grateful for the Journey That Led to My Service Dog

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by Wendy Caroline |

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I entered through the hospital doors and walked about 30 feet before becoming completely out of breath. I had a split second of panic before I remembered the heavy backpack I was wearing. I called my mom, who was ahead of me. She turned back and took my backpack from me so that I could walk the remaining 100 feet to admissions.

My two-week admission turned into three weeks, and then four. Finally, I was discharged. That stay revealed many scary realities and limitations on my future. My lung function fell to its lowest ever as I endured my longest hospital stay. I also had an eye-opening revelation about my disease.

I had a lot of time to reflect during that prolonged stay. The experience of being unable to carry my backpack ran through my mind. Then, I recalled strategically packing my backpack for school to make sure I could walk across the campus to class.

That thought sparked a childhood memory of bringing our family dog to the local farmers market. He wore packs, which my mom made and trained him to wear, to carry our produce. I started searching the internet for advice on how to train a dog to carry a backpack. Articles kept popping up about mobility service dogs. The idea intrigued me, but I decided that it was an expensive pipe dream.

The following year, I welcomed a puppy into my home. His sweet and obedient nature led me to revisit the idea of a service dog. I discovered the option of owner training. What I found through my initial research was daunting.

I brought up the idea with my cystic fibrosis care team, who was on board. Then, I spoke with a couple of local trainers and received a referral to a private trainer. She guided me while I trained my dog and helped me to bridge the gap presented by my physical limitations.

To make a long story short, my pet dog was unsuitable for service work. My true match was a puppy bred for service work through a wonderful program called Heritage Service Dogs. I feel incredibly grateful for the journey that has brought me to this point in my independence and empowered me in my healthcare.

Besides, I find it much easier to ask for help from a cute, fluffy boy that is continually asking what he can do for me rather than request assistance from a fellow human.

» Follow my journey at “The Living, Breathing Wendy” «


Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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