Saturday, July 2, 2016

Letting Go is Never Easy

Life is always changing, for everyone, all the time, but even more so for someone who lives with a neuromuscular condition.  Throw in a crazy, active four year old daughter and life changes even more. Add in a husband who has a demanding work schedule and is all over the Tennessee Valley every week and life changes yet again. 

A daughter who gains new abilities every week, a mother and a wife who fights to maintain her abilities every week but sometimes loses, and a daddy and a husband who struggles to keep up with it all. 

Life is ever changing for us all. Responsibilities and needs shift. What once worked flawlessly seems to no longer work. Tough decisions have to be made in order to maintain stability and harmony within a family. 

A little over two years ago we welcomed a new member into our family. He was big and hairy and full of love with an overwhelming desire to help. Murphy the Service Dog was the missing piece to our little family of three. 

The four of us went on numerous adventures and always had the best time. Annabelle knew all about service dog etiquette and would quickly tell an approaching stranger that they could not pet Murphy as he was working and they were not on the service dog team. 

Murphy and I went everywhere together. He was my faithful companion always willing to help. Together the two of us educated a large portion of individuals in the Chattanooga area about service dogs and service dog etiquette. 

Murphy accompanied me to work everyday, to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga countless nights, and to just about every retail store in Chattanooga. Because of his time spent with me he could probably do my job at Island Cove Marina, he definitely earned a Masters in Accountancy from UTC, and he is hands down the best bargain shopper around. 

While the last two years with Murphy have been amazing there have been numerous obstacles in several different areas of our ever changing life for our family of four to overcome.  As a result of some of these obstacles I have been struggling with making a huge decision in my life. A decision that not only effects me but has a ripple effect to so many even beyond my little family.  The looming question having a service dog still the best decision for me?  Does Murphy provide a benefit to my life? 

These are questions I never imagined contemplating. Murphy was a family member to us and we imagined we would have him forever. Sadly, circumstances change and difficult decisions must be made as a result of those ever changing circumstances. After many discussions, much prayer, and countless tears I have decided the best thing for me and for Murphy is to return him to his first family and faithful trainers Ramona and Tim Nichols. 

This decision was not made lightly. I spent a great amount of time trying to weigh out what would be best for everyone involved. 

The older my daughter gets the more we are able to enjoy things one on one. She is much more self sufficient so my physical limitations aren't quite as hindering as they  were when she was an infant and a toddler. Selfishly, I don't want to miss a moment of her life or any of the activities she chooses to participate in. Having my attention divided between her and Murphy has been very challenging at times. 

The entire time Murphy and I worked together as a team I have struggled with whether or not I was truly deserving of him. I say that because all of the tasks he could perform for me I could still perform for myself but it was fabulous to have a break from doing some of them. I always felt guilty because maybe there was someone out there who could 'use' him more than me. 

Murphy absolutely loves to work. Some days I would have to really remind myself to let him work for me and not just walk beside me keeping me in fabulous company. I know that in some ways I was depriving him of his life's work, to help and serve. 

Murphy has been back at home with Ramona, Tim, and all his fur brothers for several weeks now. He has seamlessly fit right back into all his old routines. Murphy will get to decide his future over the next several months. He could become the next spokesdog for Georgia Canines for Independence or he could become a loving and faithful companion to some special someone in need. Regardless of what Murphy chooses for his future one thing is certain, he will be a blessing to everyone he comes in contact with. 

I want to thank Ramona for being so patient and loving with me while I made this difficult decision. She took the time to reassure me that I needed to do what was best for me and that Murphy would thrive no matter where he was at. I will forever feel guilty because by giving Murphy back it seems as though I have let so many people down even though deep within my heart I know this is the best decision for everyone involved. 

This little family of three gave a piece of our hearts to Murphy and I hope he carries these pieces with him no matter where he goes. We love you Murphy!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

GADA Team Training Day Eleven

This morning our breakfast was once again provided by volunteer Deb. She prepared quiche and a hashbrown casserole.  It was so quiet in the classroom because all the dogs were at Groomingdale's getting beautiful for gradation.  We all worked on our written exam while we ate. After turning the exams in, Ramona said we all passed with an A++.

Ramona touched on a few more topics that we still needed to cover. These topics included how to let our service dogs meet and greet other dogs, separation anxiety (which Murphy is already having if I leave him with Jeremy to go to the bathroom), and how to kennel our dogs.

Next we moved along to our oral exam. Ramona asked us situational type questions that we may encounter from other people while out in public. This exam also covered behavioral issues we may encounter while in public with our dogs.  Once again we all passed with an A ++. It's was official, each team passed all the necessary tests for our service dogs. Woohoo!!!

It was time to celebrate. Volunteer DeeDee and her mother Glenda catered in pizza. Glenda also brought a homemade chocolate cake. It's our final team training meal. Sniff sniff. :'-(

After lunch, Ramona covered grooming for dogs. They need to be brushed daily, no more than one bath a week, their nails need to be trimmed once every two weeks, they need to have their teeth brushed, the inside of their ears cleaned, and their hair trimmed occasionally.  We also covered health requirement for our dogs; such as, vet visits, shots, heart worm medicine and flea control.

The call from Groomingdale's finally came and Tim went to pick up our babies. They were as excited to see us as we were them.  Rich and his mother Barbara made bandanas for all the coordinate with our personalities.  After some puppy cuddles, we went outside for some group pictures and then it was home to rest up for graduation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

GADA Team Training Day Ten

At breakfast this morning, Ramona cover the itinerary for graduation. This is going to be a ceremony you won't want to miss. I hope you will all join us for this wonderful celebration.

We jumped right into our practical working exam with our dogs. Each team performed ten different tasks with our dogs. And of course each team did amazing. These dogs are so eager to perform. It still amazes me that each dog has formed such a bond with their human partner in such a short amount of time. Even though Tim and Ramona have spent two years with them, their focus is completely on their new partner. We all passed our exam with flying colors. All we have left to complete our training is an oral and written exam which we will take tomorrow.
Danny in the kennel
 Topper turns the light on
 Watching the exam
 Rich and Topper
 Resting up
 Danny retrieving an item from the drawer
 Topper paying the cashier
 Good job Murphy
 Puppy love
Exams are hard work!!
Murphy retrieving an item from the drawer

Tim catered in our lunch from Subway and afterwards Ramona showed us the graduation. We all wanted to see it before hand so we could be desensitized. I can tell you after watching the video that you will need tissues if you plan to come to graduation. Ramona did a phenomenal job with the video.

We all loaded up after lunch for our final outing, a trip to the movies to see Maleficent.  Each dog settled in quite nicely before the movie started. We were all very careful not to drop any popcorn. There was a part in the movie with wolfs barking. I was so afraid we would have three dogs barking but they all remained quiet.  It was another successful outing!
Movie time

Ramona and Tim took all the dogs home with them tonight. They will be going to Groomingdale's first thing in the morning so they will be nice and clean for graduation on Friday.
Goodwill sign reads:
Danny Topper
and Murphy
GADA Graduates