Service Dog Partners Samantha and Ivy

August 8th, 2013 by Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal

I am so happy to bring you a guest post from Samantha on her partnership with Ivy. We hope to help bring awareness to the work service dogs do during International Assistance Dog Week 2013. Without further adieu, Samantha.

To most, their pets are their companions but to me, Ivy, my service dog, is much more than that. She is my independence, my arms and legs.

My service dog journey started in 1998 when I saw a puppy in training during an appointment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. From that moment on I knew I wanted a service dog so I could be more independent. Six years and one denial later (I was turned down by the organization the puppy in training was from), I found myself starting Canine Partners for Life’s team training with Ivy.

Like anything else in life, service dogs have both pros and cons. A lot of people assume that when you receive a service dog from a program that the dog requires no other training. This most certainly is not true. They are dogs, not robots, and their skills and obedience need to be worked on, “brushing up on” if you will. Sometimes a service dog will just have an off day and, although they know what they are suppose to do, they decide they just don’t want to do it. In the case of Ivy, she has what I like to call her “diva moments” where she throws in some dramatic flare when doing tasks. Service dogs also need high quality food, regular grooming (remember they’re out in public and need to be presentable, aka looking fab-u-lous!), and, Ivy’s favorite…LOTS of exercise and playtime.

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For me, the pros definitely out weigh the cons. The independence Ivy provides is immeasurable. I have a progressive neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It affects the connection between the muscles and nerves, making the voluntary muscles get weaker over time. I use a power wheelchair full time, have limited use of my hands and require help with all activities of daily living.  Simple things that most people take for granted, like picking up a glass of water, I cannot physically do myself.

Ivy enables me to go outside by myself or in a different store in the mall with out worrying about being stuck if my hand falls off the joystick. Someone doesn’t have to stop what they’re doing to help me, I can just ask Ivy. And she is willing to do what I ask in exchange for some verbal praise and some treats.

Besides the service skills she does, having Ivy helps me in other ways. My days of sleeping in until noon are over, I have to be up and ready at a reasonable time to make sure she goes out to potty and gets fed. Sitting inside all day is not an option, we go out for a walk and some playtime, weather permitting, everyday. She knows even before I do when I’m about to get sick, she lets me know by becoming extra cuddly. She allows me to not focus so much on my disability because I focus on her and her needs.

Ivy and I have been together now for 9 years. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs and seen a lot of milestones together: I graduated college (including walking across stage together, Ivy wearing her very own cap, of course, and retrieving the diploma!), gone to camp and a few retreats by myself (fun), had a hospitalization (not so much fun). Ivy’s working career will be coming to an end soon (she is 11 years old after all) but I know neither of us would change anything about our partnership.

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2 Responses

  1. Blake says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations to you and Ivy.

  2. Lindsay says:

    great post! i’m a huge dog lover in general, but it’s so wonderful to read samantha’s story and hear about the life ivy has helped provide her. i especially love the photo with ivy wearing her cap, too. what a beautiful dog!

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