Effectively Coping with Disabilities and Raising Awareness

Rudy Sims

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Related Topics: Disability Nexus

Disability Nexus: Article

Life's A Breeze

an article written by Tammy van der Kamp

In the spring of 2007 PADS Service Dog Breeze blew into my life like a hurricane. I should have known something big was up when the voice over the phone asked whether I was sitting down…For those of you who don’t know, I’m a quad – I’m always sitting down! The big news was that I had been matched up with a PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs) dog. Her name is “Breeze”, and she’s a Golden Retriever. I had been on the PADS wait list for about 6 months; and I'd put a lot of thought into getting a helper dog for 3 or 4 years prior to applying. I wanted extra help for those times when nobody was around - after my staff had gone for the night. PADS Service Dog Breeze and I were introduced shortly thereafter, and hit if off right away. After our first meeting I had visions of Lassie pulling me out of the well. I was very excited by the prospect of greater independence, though perhaps some of my care staff feared for their jobs… A month later I was attending the two week training session.

The PADS basic training session - which I have dubbed “Doggie Boot Camp”, was an intense, even exhausting process. I had to learn how to be boss of a dog – which is different from being the boss of people, and worlds away from being boss of a cat. In the first place, none of my care staff will work for kibbles, and they won’t wag their tails either, no matter how enthusiastically I praise them. On the other hand, I don’t have to bribe them with treats to motivate them. As for my cat Rocket: well, let’s be real – nobody bosses a cat. He still runs the house.

Being the senior partner in a working dog team takes a huge commitment, all the consistency I can muster, patience, and great self discipline. Not only do I need to reinforce her basic training daily, I constantly have to establish that she’s NOT a pet – she’s a working dog. I was warned too by the PADS instructors that people who had in the past avoided eye contact with me would find any excuse to make conversation, now that PADS Service Dog Breeze was along. It’s true – she is a real ice breaker, even though every encounter with the public has come to include the words”No, you can’t pet her – she’s working”.

PADS Service Dog Breeze and I are still learning to work together, but already she can hand me the phone, retrieve dropped items off the floor, including the TV remote, papers, pens, and change. She can open all the doors in my apartment including the fridge. Maybe one day she will be able to get me a beer! She can turn lights off and on, as well as push buttons to activate doors and elevators. She can help me take my jacket off by tugging at the sleeves, and the other day she handed my bank card to the cashier at my local pet store.

PADS Service Dog Breeze has helped me tremendously in the short time we have been working together, and I expect she’ll become even more useful as time goes on. My favorite times with her however, are in the evening when her assistance dog apron is off and she is my doggie companion. She seeks my attention with adoring eyes, and sticks to my side as though she were Velcroed. She loves to rest her chin on my foot as I sit and watch TV before settling for the night.

The things that make PADS Service Dog Breeze a great assistance dog are the same things that make her a good dog – she is loyal, obedient, and eager to please. I look forward to leading an even more active, independent, and happy life with her in the future!

For more information on the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, and its programs, check out the website at www.pads.ca

More Stories By Rudy Sims

I am currently 31 years old I have a disability called cerebral palsy and I am in a wheelchair I was born with cerebral palsy and I have had three operations to try and manage it. My last operation went badly and I experienced very severe postoperative chronic pain for 10 years. I am doing great now and I want to help others with disabilities and chronic illnesses cope effectively with their conditions.