Monday, February 2, 2009

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Today as Shiloh were unloading to go into work a mother was also unloading her son, who attends the Head Start program in the building, all of the sudden I hear this tiny voice say "Hey, that dog looks like Balto!" I couldn't help but smile as I continued assembling my wheelchair. The mother continuing to free her children from their car seats said, "That's a working dog." He son in his continuing awe over Shiloh, "You know I don't have a dog like that." The mother, I am sure not wanting to open that can of worms, simply replied, "That's right you don't."

This scene is just one small example of how service dogs improve the lives of people with disabilities by changing how (or if) other people see and react to them. I know many people living with disabilities (including myself) who are outgoing, friendly, talented, intelligent, ect., yet, often find themselves feeling alone and invisible in the middle of a huge crowd. While this is not a trained task, being validated as existing by the people around you, goes a long way to improving how many people living with disabilities feel about themselves. Even in today's progressive society, I have experienced people actively avoiding me, pulling their children away, climbing over the top of me like a piece of furniture without so much as an excuse me, and more. Yet, the incident above and others like it since partnering with my first service dog, Bastien, give me faith that there are people who can treat people with respect and humanity.

I had another unforgettable,wonderful incident involving two children with Bastien, my first service dog. Bastien and I were coming out of a local Rite Aid and I had paused on the side walk to figure out what the shortest route to the bus home was. As we were sitting on the side walk, two children, a boy and a girl around 5 and 6 years old, came running up to us. They stopped as if someone had applied the brakes about a foot away from us. They, then, politely asked if they could pet my dog. Since I believe in rewarding children for asking before touching my service dog, I said yes. They both very gently stroked Bastien a few times. Then, these two beautiful children surprised me further by thanking me and gently kissing my cheek before running back to their mother who had by this time caught up to her little whirlwinds. I will never forget either of these two incidents.

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