I have decided to share my service dogs story and share a daily journal about an incredible dog whose journey has touch so many lives.
I have had the fortunate gift to have had her by my side for eleven yrs now. I thought it would healing for me to write about both the days I will have left w/her and the days I had w/ her.
Hayliegh, just saying her name makes me smile. She is a beautiful, black American Cocker
Spaniel with soulful brown eyes. I can’t
begin to describe how important she is to me on every level. The support she gives me emotionally, and
with my hidden disabilities, is astounding.
She is always right with me, and her company is priceless. I don’t know how she knows, but, when I am
suffering, sometimes even before I know I am about to have pain, she helps me
by changing her normal behaviors. I have
to stop what I am doing, and take care of myself. I am beyond fortunate, and overflowing with
gratitude that she is in my life.
One night, when Hayleigh was about six months old, she woke me up while
I was sleeping. She somehow knew that I
needed to wake up, and get myself to the hospital. I had what I believe was a vascular
migraine. At the time, migraines were a
concern for me that could not be ignored, as I had been diagnosed with an
inoperable aneurysm in my brain. The
migraine hit me in my sleep; that type of migraine makes it especially
difficult to wake up. As if I was in a
dream, I heard myself say, “I need to let up and get help. Get up, get up.” That was when Hayliegh woke me up. I fought to rise from my bed for what felt
like hours. Eventually, with Hayliegh’s
insistence, I managed to get out of bed and to the hospital, where I received
the treatment I needed. I was more than
grateful, I was mystified. I started to
think our connection might include an intuitive component that went beyond the
average dog and owner relationship.
Hayliegh was seven months old when I found out that someone with a 100%
disability has the legal right to have any dog be their service dog. I was 100% disabled in more than one area of
my life. I dreamed that I might find a
way for her to work as my service dog. I
started doing research. I wanted to know
the rules for going out in public, because I received so much harassment since
I didn’t look disabled. That was when I
found out that it truly was possible for my very own Hayliegh to be my service
dog. I jumped on it! I found a place called
Cape-able-Canines. The facility is
operated and owned by a woman who had worked with well-known service dog facilities
such as Canine Companions for Independence.
She had many kinds of training options, so Hayliegh and I took two
obedience classes, and a service dog education course. We had fun adventures and our bond deepened.
In one of our obedience classes, we were asked to play a game called the
wet t-shirt contest. I couldn’t help but
wonder what we were going to do! As I
glanced at everyone, they had the same puzzled look on their faces. We were split into two teams. We each raced with our dog to a bucket full of
water, took out a dripping, doggie-sized t-shirt, found a way to get the sodden
mass on our dog, and ran back to the starting line. The first team to get done was the winner. I’m glad to share that our team won. After more fun lessons, we finished our
service dog etiquette course, and she did really well. It was a red-letter day when we received our
certificate of completion. We went out
into the world with new skills, and the delightful conviction that we were a
Today, Hayleigh takes her job seriously.
She instinctively knows, before I do, if a migraine is going to
hit. She won’t let me out the front
door. Even if it is her time to go out
and do her thing, she waits until she knows I am well enough to accompany her. She knows my when fibromyalgia is flaring
up. Amazingly, when I have symptoms in
my back, she communicates differently than when I have stomach problems. Her behavior changes and sometimes her body
language can be eloquent. When we are
out running errands, she knows when I need to leave early and get to the
car. She communicates that something is
out of the ordinary by becoming stubborn, really stubborn. This is a clear deviation from her easy-going
nature, and usually indicates that I am going to come down with acute pain in
my stomach. One time, she even showed my
therapist, that I had a serious back injury.
She dragged her back legs into the patient room when we went in to talk. We were astounded. Hayliegh’s sensitivity to me shows up in
social settings too.
Hayliegh knows the difference between the different levels of
relationships that we have. There is the
“out shopping” mode. She knows to remain
by me until given permission to greet other people. When we run into casual friends, she knows
she can say hello after I’ve greeted them.
On the days I’m not well, she will greet them, then come right back to
When we are in “gym mode,” even though she is working for me, I allow
her to say hi to everyone, as they are friends that we see all the time. Saying hello is part of her treats, so I let
her enjoy herself while we’re there. She
always makes me her priority, despite her outgoing nature. One day, at the gym, a friend said, “Do you
notice how she isn’t as friendly when the fibromyalgia is flaring in your
back?” I realized that was true. I also discovered that her behavior reverted
to her usual friendly demeanor once my medication kicked in. Another time, she refused to be social with
any of our close friends at the gym. She
stood near my side, looking forward in a worried manner. Jennifer, a staff member, asked, “Kim, are
you feeling okay?” I told her I felt
fine. She said, “Either you need to go
home, or we are going to have an earthquake, because I’ve never seen Hayliegh
act like this.” I decided to listen to
Hayliegh’s intuition. She couldn’t have
walked any faster to get me to the car.
She wouldn’t even take her normal treats. Trusting Hayliegh’s awareness, I went
straight home. Within forty minutes, I
was doubled over with acute stomach pain and I couldn’t walk. My day was over.
When she is in her “doctor mode,” she likes to greet the nurses, staff,
and doctors. I think it helps her feel
safe when they work on me. My doctors
are amazed, when she displays that she knows they are going to give me a
shot. She gets up from lying down and
watches. When they do a CAT scan or any
other test where she can’t see my face, she whimpers. She’s my little mother hen.
We have close friends we spend time with. She is all over them, having fun, letting
them know she cares. She still knows who
her mom is, and that makes my heart sing.
She knows when we’re eating at home, or at a friend’s house that she’s
free to ask for treats. When we go out,
though, she behaves so well, you wouldn’t know she is there.
I have learned that many service dogs are trained to do specific jobs. There are guide dogs for the blind, assistance
dogs for people in wheelchairs, and hearing dogs for those who are deaf. There are many thousands of people that are
disabled who can see, and hear, but have other, hidden, disabilities and don’t
realize that they have the right to benefit from the use of a companion and/or
service dog. Having a stalwart companion
by your side can add a dimension to your life that you have to experience to
fathom. The friendship Hayliegh and I
share brings laughter and joy to all my days.
My Hayliegh-girl is the light of my life. Our love runs deep. We can look into each other’s eyes and feel
safe. She licks my skin and kisses my
face. I think she can tell when medicine
is in my system by the way I taste. It
is clear to me that she stops worrying about me then. Her loving brown eyes, her kisses and caring
about me, are a gift. I love watching
everything about her: the way she trots,
how her little tail wags when she is happy, how she taps my leg with her paw,
then looks at me as if to say, “It is treat time. I want one, mom.” We have this little game. I tell her, “I’m going to get you,” when she
is coming towards me, so she runs as fast as she can right past me. If I can tap her bum while she flies by, I
win. If she is too fast and I can’t tap
her, she wins. I love to watch her run
as fast as she can down the hallway, her ears flopping and a smile on her face
because she knows it is treat time. I am
blessed to have her, and I know one day when God takes her, she will know that
I loved her, and I will know she loved me.