I have the utmost respect for Tammy’s fierce sense of determination and independence but have convinced her that it’s okay to let friends help by providing some financial assistance during this stressful time. It takes a village...together, with our collective donations, we can help ease some of the stress on this incredible team.
I’ll let Tammy share her story:
I sustained a spinal cord injury in 1983 shortly before turning 17 years old. I had worked all my life, since the of age 12, with the exception of a couple years after my accident. I was told that I would never walk again and may never move from the neck down. I was determined to prove the doctors wrong! Although in a wheelchair, I managed to live an independent life, hold down a full-time job and by all accounts lived a so-called normal life.
Unfortunately that so-called normal life caught up with me to the point where my specialist told me I could no longer work.
A couple years later I made the decision that I needed some help so I research service dogs. I found the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, filled out the the application for a service dog, and within a year I attended the school for three weeks of formal training with my service dog. I was Introduced to this beautiful apricot standard poodle by the name of Kiwi. I had no idea at the time what an impact this dog would make in my life!
A few months after coming home with her I realized that I had been in a dark hole and needed help getting out. Kiwi is trained to assist me in my daily living. She would open and close doors, jumped up and hit the automatic handicap door buttons, retrieve clothes out of the washer and dryer and hand them to me, assist me in removing clothing such as my shoes, socks, pants and tops. As I am getting older so is my disability and the wear and tear on my body, so I now have torn rotator cuffs and my right bicep tendon has torn. In the early stages of the tendon tearing it was extremely painful and difficult just to do the simplest tasks such as brushing my hair or my teeth, and preparing dinner but I found it especially difficult to remove my clothes when it was time for bed. Without Kiwi I would have spent a good portion of the winter sleeping in my clothes! I would give her the command and she would pull off my slippers, my socks and my pants.
I was afraid that when I did make the decision to obtain a service dog the focus would be on my disability however that has proven wrong and she has opened up my neighborhood. I have made several new friends because of her. I am healthier because of her and I also have a purpose other than myself. That purpose is her!
This July, 2018, I noticed that Kiwi was starting to slow down and initially I thought it was just the heat and humidity. It started with an eye infection and within two days she was limping, in excruciating pain and she would cry and whimper in the middle of the night. My girl was having trouble walking, she was not eating, she had diarrhea and was very lethargic. Kiwi did not want to play and if you knew my girl you’d know that if you show her a ball and she could play all day! But this wasn’t happening anymore!
I took her to her regular vet four times. They did tests and x-rays but only found that she had the onset of arthritis in her right wrist. We are with our dogs 24/7. Service dogs are our life lines and we depend on them. It is a bond that is unexplainable unless you experience having a service dog in your life. I knew there was something very wrong with her. Then as we were going across the street, all of a sudden she started to limp in one leg and then went lame in the other. I called the vet and the next day she had an appointment at a specialty emergency veterinary hospital where they discovered she has IMPA, Immune Mediated Poly Arthritis.
Immune Mediated Poly Arthritis (IMPA) is a disease in which the immune system mounts an inflammatory response within the joints, causing pain, swelling and difficulty walking. In IMPA, the immune system is inappropriately activated to send white blood cells to the joints. The white blood cells release chemicals and enzymes into the fluid that bathes the joints, disrupting the protective function of this fluid. A diagnosis of IMPA is made after the veterinarian is certain that there is not an underlying infection or cancer that may have triggered swelling in the joints. Because the white blood cells are attacking the joints inappropriately, IMPA is sometimes called an autoimmune disease. IMPA can occur independently or in combination with more severe immune mediated disease in which other body systems are affected.
Kiwi is now being treated with medication, including steroids. She’s seems to be responding well and her recent follow-up appointment with the specialist was positive. Although she is still unable to work, we are hopeful that she will recover and be able to return to working as my service dog.
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