Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Celebrating Service Dogs: SSD Sara and her partner

In honor of National Assistance Dog Week, we're going to share stories about services dogs and the love and support they give to their partners. This is the story of SSD Sara and her partner.

I am writing this in memory of my hearing dog, Sara, from Susquehanna Service Dogs. Sara was an extremely bright and beautiful yellow lab that touched so many people's lives, especially my own. She would alert me to the simplest of things such as people walking and talking behind me, the phone ringing, someone knocking at the door, or a flock of geese flying overhead.

I would watch her body language very intently because I knew her every movement was her way of alerting me to my surroundings. She taught me how to trust and believe in her and her training, and most importantly that she would forever be "my ears." My work involves traveling and I often find myself staying overnight at a hotel. Making reservations includes ensuring the room is accessible to my deafness. Often times when I carefully and dutifully make the necessary arrangements for my hotel room, I soon discover the accommodations to be insufficient and not meeting my needs.

Sara became a part of my life in 1998 when I heard that Susquehanna Service Dogs was training dogs as hearing dogs. I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity and promptly sent in my application. Sara and I were destined to be together. We made a formidable team. She knew my needs before I knew them. She would work for me 24/7, 365 days a year with complete dedication. An example of this dedication occurred when Sara and I had our first overnight trip together. I was in Philadelphia for a meeting and then had a long drive to Pittsburgh before our day ended. We arrived at the hotel tired and decided to go to bed early. Within 30 minutes after retiring to bed, Sara was alerting me with her nose and kept going to the door. As part of her training, I was taught that when Sara acted that way I was to follow her. So, I followed her to the door and looked out the "peep" hole. I couldn't see anyone or anything outside. I went back to bed, but she continued to alert me to the door. After numerous alerts, I decided to open the door to show her nothing was going on. To my surprise there were four firemen, the hotel manager and a sign language interpreter. They came to inform me that we had to leave quickly because there had been a bomb threat. The entire time Sara was alerting me she was doing her job.

From that moment forward I knew I could always count on her and trust her to meet my needs. She was my guardian angel that evening.

Christmas was a very special time of the year for Sara and I. Together we discovered how truly loved and cherished we both were. Many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers would give Sara toys or treats as part of their giving spirit during the holiday season. Sara's dedication and love towards others and myself never faltered.

We would go into the community to nursing homes, colleges and schools to talk with people (particularly children) to educate them about service dogs and hearing dogs. Sara's loving nature made all this possible. Then one fateful day I was told the devastating news that my precious Sara had cancer in her shoulder. I spent the next few weeks giving her as much love as she had given me. I wanted her to know how much I loved and appreciated her so we spent time doing her favorite things such as smelling flowers and swimming.

One of our favorite pastimes was going to the lake. Sara loved the water. She would race ahead of me. I would throw an empty water bottle into the lake and she would retrieve it. Sara's zest for life was contagious and with her by my side, I couldn't wait to see what each new day would bring with Sara as "my ears." Saying goodbye to Sara was the hardest thing I ever had to do. She will be forever in my heart. She taught me how to trust, how to love, and that I didn't need my hears to hear, I only needed to listen with my heart. I dedicate this story in memory of my precious Sara, and I thank Susquehanna Service Dogs for training her and giving me such a special gift. I wouldn't be the woman I am today with out either of them coming into my life.

1 comment:

  1. what a wonderful story. I so happy you had her and it sounds like she was very lucky to have you too.
    Have you gotten a new dog yet? I hope so.