Hi friends –
I am so excited to share with you all of the adventures we have as a family but as we sit around and talk about what we’d like our futures to hold there is a defining theme for Dad. He is becoming distinctly aware that we do have a story to tell, he and I, and we have people to help. He says we have a gift to give back to the world. Mom and the girls have helped him realize that even though he does not see himself as special, unique or that he has achieved anything special just because he happens to have a disability, the one thing he may have to offer is his perspective through the experiences. He says he never would have considered any of this if it were not for me coming into his life. He often hugs me and tells me how wonderfully difficult I am; how the every day challenges we face together have helped him in ways he fights to get down in words for this blog. This new chapter is something we’ve been envisioning for well over a year now. It’s the work of helping others be more aware of themselves, in particular around disability and service dogs but more broadly to share a way of seeing the world.
We finally got our chance; our first speaking engagement! I am so excited about it because it shows us that good can come directly out of negative experiences. It all came about because we went to a middle school choir concert and had kids calling me names for the second time in as many months. We tend to largely ignore these things in the moment for a couple reasons. One, because we’re working and have places to be; and two, because singling people out in the moment can cause tempers to flare and not allow us to present ourselves very well at all. (Dad has a sharp tongue if he chooses to use it for evil.) On the drive home from the event we talked about it and decided that we’d at least let the choir director know what happened and that when anyone insults me Dad (and Mom) takes it personally. Mom had his email address so she kindly let it be known that we don’t like name calling. The response back was positive so we offered to visit his classes and talk about disability and service dog awareness.
We set the date for December 19th and Mom put together a slide letting everyone know that I was coming and the best way to react when they saw me. We arrived early do that we could sign in, navigate our way through the halls, and have a few minutes for me to get used to being in a school. Dad was really calm and very happy that I was as well. He said I responded very well and walked right where I was supposed to. We made our way down the halls and through a cafeteria to the auditorium seats right outside of the classroom where we’d be speaking.
Soon we were asked into the room before the students arrived so that we could get my fluffy set out and Dad could sit. The kids were all wonderfully behaved and sat without any fuss. We were very warmly welcomed and allowed to start our talking points. We wanted it to brief, but also touch on all the important points: visible versus invisible disability, how and when to approach a service team, the kinds of things I do as a service dog, the differences between service and assistance animals, and many other points that we thought would be interesting to our audience. Of course we left time for some show at the end of our tell. Dad asked me “Up” and “Brace”, then he stood and we worked a bit for the kids. We walked across the floor, up a couple of stairs and then as we got back to the start Dad pretended to trip, and fall so that we could show off bracing and getting back up. After that we left lots of time for the kids to talk to us, ask questions, and, of course, meet me if they wanted to. I think the most asked questions were, “Where does he sleep?” and “What does he eat?” Of course we Dad answered, “Where ever he wants” and “Whatever he wants” to be funny before answering honestly.
I really enjoyed the kids and all of their stories, questions, and kindness. I feel like we made a difference by the time we left for the afternoon and I don’t think they will make fun of Dad and me again. Lily, the biggest human puppy who is in the middle school choir, has come home from school since that day and told me all about how everyone that met me was impressed with HER cool dog. That really makes me proud because I love my pack, and I don’t mind working for her when I’m not working for Dad.