Monday, August 6, 2012

International Assistance Dog Week: Greg and SSD Misty

It’s International Assistance Dog Week, a week devoted to celebrating assistance dogs and the way they support their partners to live more independently. We can’t think of any better way to celebrate this week than to have some of our partners share their stories of their service dogs.

Guest post by Greg Traynor

My name is Greg Traynor, and I am a person with a disability (spinal cord injury, paralyzed from the chest down). I have a wonderful service dog named SSD Misty Morning, and she is a Susquehanna Service Dog from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Misty is my second service dog from SSD.

My spinal cord injury happened in 1999 because of a diving accident. I was 31 years old at the time. I was working independently as a senior field auditor, traveling the country for a national shoe company. At the time of my injury, I had a Labrador retriever puppy named Buddy. For my entire life, I have been a dog person and loved Labrador retrievers. But because of my injury, I had to give Buddy away.

When I was in rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, a specialty spinal cord injury hospital located in Atlanta Georgia, I was introduced to service dogs. Once a week, a local group would bring service dogs into the gym to interact with all the patients. It was fun to play with the dogs and great physical therapy at the same time. I made it my goal to obtain a service dog as quickly as I could.

After completing my rehabilitation and moving back to Pennsylvania, I placed an application with SSD and obtained my first service dog, Nala. We were a working team for 11 years before I had to retire her because of her advanced age. Nala went to live with my attendant and continues to do so, even at the age of 15.

I want to explain my relationship with my service dog. If you are reading this far into my post, chances are you are a dog person as well. Having a service dog is so much more than loving a companion dog or family pet. Misty enables me to live as independently as possible and not rely on 24-hour attendant care. She is my hands, my confidence, my companion and a trusted friend. Without Misty, I would not be able to stay alone, run my business, or function as well as I currently do.

Not only does she retrieve objects and carefully place them on my tray table (mounted on my power wheelchair), but she can go and get help in case of emergencies. This was particularly important last month when I was having trouble breathing in the early morning. I am unable to cough independently to clear my lungs. I was struggling to breathe, and I gave her the command to get help. She opened the bedroom door and went upstairs to the bathroom and literally got Beth out of the shower. Beth quickly came downstairs and assisted me with coughing so I could breathe again.

There are hundreds of stories like this that happened over the last 12 years, of my service dog coming to my rescue, saving the day. As I write this, she is sleeping beside my wheelchair, being my friend and letting me know she is always at my side. I am so grateful to Susquehanna Service Dogs and all they do to enable and empower individuals with disabilities on a daily basis.

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