by Harmony the Service Dog
(Yeahsen & Harmony are graduates of ICAN's June, 2014 Graduation Class.)
I watched through the window of my front door as my boy drove off with a group of high school friends. After he was no longer in my view, I walked back to my favorite spot on the couch in the sunroom and thought about how far my boy has come in the 3 years I have been his service dog. When I first came home to take care of Yeahsen, I had to work really hard to keep him from running away from his mom, from feeling so bad he screamed and from falling down when he lost his balance. Now, my boy is a freshman at Zionsville High School and I go with him every day. Josh picks us up every morning in his big yellow bus and we have our own assigned seats. There is always an aid to take us to our classroom when we arrive at High School.
As I settle in, my boy goes to his locker all by himself, something new and very independent for him. Every class period we have students, who have been specially trained to work with Yeahsen, help do jobs around the school that will help us get a job when he is an adult. These students are called "Peers" and I can tell they really like Yeahsen and he likes them. They get High School credit for teaching and supporting him. They even come with us into the community to teach us how to shop and use money. If we have had a good week, we get to go out for a pop on Fridays. At the end of the day, my boy walks into the door and tells mom if I have had a good day before he talks about himself. He says, "Harmony had a good day!". Because he likes to talk about me so much, he has learned to sit with mom after school and discuss his day too. I am looking forward to starting Track practice at High School and help him run forward. Because his body does not tell him where he is in space, he cannot run very well. He doesn't always know where the ground is in front of him, but when he holds on to my handle and I gently pull him forward, that gives him enough support to run.
I also think about all the medical appointments and therapy I go to with my boy. He has a lot of appointments at Riley Children's Hospital, but one time he really needed my help. He was getting ready for a procedure when the nurse taped a red light to his finger, he got anxious and I immediately got out from under my chair to press my head on his knee to comfort him. The nurse was so amazed that I knew just how to help him relax. My boy went back for his procedure while mom and I went to the waiting room. About an hour later the nurse said that I was needed to go back to his special bed in the operating room. My boy got very upset when they tried to put the mask on his nose and they were worried about waking him up. They saw how I helped him before and asked that I get in his bed in the recovery room before they woke him. When he woke up, he was confused, but I helped calm him down.
I think about school again and how our Life Skills teacher, Mrs. Morrison, believes in him. I watch her gently encourage him to do more, to try hard to learn. She always wants him to do his very best and she wants me to do my best too. I have watched how he now believes in himself because of Mrs. Morrison and everyone at High School. I have to admit that I love it during 4th period when they take off my vest and I get to run around like a crazy wild puppy. One time I accidently popped the school's volley ball during PE class. My mom told them that when it comes to sports, if my vest is off, I play hard!
My boy is coming home now from his date with friends, I just heard mom heading to the front door. Courtney is his best buddy and while I know she will take very good care of him, it is a true friendship. There he is. I wag my tail as I look up to see mom with big tears in her eyes, a smile on her face and her cell phone out to record my boy getting out of a carload full of friends and walking up to the door by himself.
March is Disability Awareness Month. This year's Disability Awareness Month theme is "I'm Not Your Inspiration" – emphasizing that people with disabilities are people first. Often, people with disabilities who are successful, athletic, employed or simply good neighbors are put in the spotlight as an inspiration to others. While it can be difficult to navigate life with a disability, many people in the disability community would prefer to be acknowledged for the many real contributions they make and for a life well lived.