After years of struggling with debilitating physical and psychological symptoms, I moved to Virginia, where I met and married the love of my life. I had made it! I had the life I had worked so hard for, including a support system like no other, a wonderful job, and acceptance into graduate school to pursue my career in clinical mental health counseling. Yet, even with all these wonderful life changes, my symptoms were not getting any better. In fact, my physical symptoms were preventing me from living life. Slowly enough to where I didn’t realize it, my world had gotten smaller and smaller to where I couldn’t leave the house most mornings to go to work. My graduate classes shifted from something that I was excited to attend to something that I dreaded. I couldn’t even drive down the road to have a date night with my husband without potentially suffering from symptoms that could easily spiral out of control. I thought about how my life and independence had shriveled away at 26 years old and feared about how life might look at 36 or 46 years old. It was then that I realized I needed to get serious about my medical treatment and seek out holistic care options for my chronic, life-long conditions.
I found PAWS Training Centers after months of researching whether a potential service dog would be right for me. It is a very personal choice to use a dog to mitigate a disability, but after much research, counsel, and prayer, I decided to go for it! I chose PAWS Training Center over other programs because they offer the potential to use your own pet, should they meet up to the standards of a service dog. My trainer, Patsy, immediately made me feel comfortable and excited to work with PAWS Training Centers. I look forward to each of our sessions and am so encouraged by her. SAMSON, my three-year-old service dog in training, is a rock star and I love working with him as much as he loves working with me. I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks old and have always enjoyed training him, but Patsy takes it to a new, challenging level.
We are about to test for Phase 2 (advanced obedience) and it seems that our training is just flying by! SAMSON and I work hard daily to proof his skills, but he meets every new challenge like he was born for this. I know that SAMSON cannot take away my disabilities, but my hope is that with a service dog alerting me before my symptoms arise and assisting me with the debilitating ones, I will be able to gain back independence lost and continue my journey in life.