In recognition of the dedication of service dogs throughout the world, writer, public speaker, advocate, activist and paraplegic, Marcie Davis has created a special week in August to help promote awareness of service dogs. Still in its infancy, International Assistance Dog Week is gaining momentum to help spread the word of how dogs can assist people to enrich their lives. This week is also used to help bring awareness of the needs of those who are partnered with an assistance dog, especially in areas of housing, transportation and being in the public. Recognition is also given to the puppy raisers and the service dog trainers.
Here is Marcie’s experience when she brought her first assistance dog into her life in the early 1990s.
“Suddenly a whole new world opened up for me. I had considered myself fairly independent prior to meeting Ramona (her first service dog). However, it soon became clear that I really was not independent, and there were numerous things I never considered until she came into my life. This same eye-opening experience is reported by many new service dog recipients. All of a sudden the impossible seems possible, and things you thought were out of your reach literally and figuratively are now obtainable. Virtually every area in your personal and professional life can be expanded and explored, including your vocation, travel opportunities, housing options and transportation.
…After the first year with Ramona, I began to notice some changes in my own behavior. Suddenly I grew impatient waiting for Franz to pick us up after work. I began to question myself about my independence. Franz was an absolute saint, but why shouldn’t I be able to drive myself to work and go to the mall by myself to shop? One day as Ramona and I were waiting for Franz, I looked at her and said “What do we need to really be independent?” In my mind, the answer was a power wheelchair, and accessible van that I could drive, and a service dog. I already had the most precious one of those three things. How hard could it be to obtain the other two?
That is when my life really transformed. Because of Ramona, I had the confidence to get an accessible van and a power wheelchair. After that, there was no stopping the two of us. For the first time in my life, I was able to run errands, go to the mall, and do anything that I wanted to do. My professional life improved. I was promoted at work and began traveling the state to fulfill my new duties. I remember Franz saying that Ramona was as much of a gift to him as she was to me. Now he did not have to worry about me as he had in the past. He knew I was in “good paws” and that, together with my service dog, I could go anywhere and do anything. It was pure bliss and a match made in Heaven!
For me the ability to drive was equal to greater independence. In today’s mobile society, transportation is one of the keys to independence. Even as an adult, I never went anywhere by myself due to my fear of being stranded. Ramona alleviated those fears with her ability to retrieve my dropped car keys, get the cellular telephone from my purse, and provide a sense of security that I was not alone. Franz’s worst nightmare was coming true—me with a service dog, car keys and a credit card! Yet, Franz’s hope for me to become independent was becoming a reality. I could share in the daily responsibilities of our household such as going to the bank, picking up the dry cleaning, and other daily errands.”
Excerpt from Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, by Marcie Davis and Melissa Bunnell. Photo copyright Doug Reeves.