Carmel and EmilyI received Carmel from Canine Companions for Independence in November 2010. They are the largest organization that breed and train service dogs in the country and they give these amazing helpers to the graduates free of charge! She came to me trained with 44 commands and I’ve taught her another 20. Besides making me laugh daily and picking things off of the floor, opening and closing doors, pushing the elevator button and a host of other things, she helps make my life more interesting. Instead of my life being about me and my illnesses and chronic pain, its about training, playing and being a good pack leader to her.
I believe in the bond of animal- human so strongly, I entered the Ms. wheelchair NY USA 2016 pageant and won. My platform was Service Dogs: Changing Lives One Wag At A Time. I went around Long Island NY and gave speeches and demonstrations showing how she has changed my life. Being interviewed on TV and the national Christian radio station, KLove were two media exciting opportunities I had to talk about what she does to help me daily. It’s not just about what she helps me with that is difficult to do physically, being a power chair user. It’s also about the emotional bond we share. When I’m crying, she will come over and lick the tears from my face. When she’s sleeping, and I leave the room, she will come find me and check on me to make sure I’m all right. As a professional vocalist, she has come over to me as I’m rehearsing and wag her tail. She will knock her tail into my chair letting me know she’s happy. One song in particular she comes up to me during is “At Last” which I recorded for my husband to roll down the aisle to meet him on our wedding day three years ago. Sometimes I wonder if she remembers the song because she was carrying the “Here comes the bride sign” right before they played it! She comes with me on stage and is a big hit at my shows. Especially when I drop a lyric sheet and she gets it for me, the audience loves it, and her tail widely wagging shows how happy she is with the attention.
In a wonderful twist, I met my husband after a horrible time in a nursing home. He received his first service dog, Bastien from the same organization. Frank is also a power chair user and I’ve learned a lot from him in the world of disabilities. His second service dog Drew is a complete delight as well. He will lick your face until you’re laughing. Both dogs get along well and it’s amazing having two service dogs in one home and watch how they mirror and learn from one another.
While I was honored to represent New York state at the National Competition of Ms. Wheelchair USA and came in first runner up, my platform has been my life long mission to explain and show how these amazing dogs Change Lives One Wag At A Time.