When my Summit dog, Fraser, came into my life, I had just been accepted at Seattle University, and my biggest dream was to live independently on campus. With over 60 commands in his arsenal, Fraser helped me realize that dream and so much more. It’s crazy to look back at the change in the trajectory of my life and aspirations since Fraser joined my side. Fraser, who was adopted by Summit from a shelter before he began his training, is always up for an adventure. He travels across the country with me as I complete my master’s degree and joined me for an internship in South Africa. Fraser’s skill set and support have made it possible for me to contribute to society on an exponentially larger scale, and I am so grateful to Summit and their supporters for the most amazing gift I have ever received.
Looking back to 2006, when Summit Assistance Dogs partnered me with Hayden, a large brown Labradoodle, I had no idea all the ways a mobility dog could help me and enhance my life. I was diagnosed with a progressive, unpredictable and life-threatening autoimmune disease in 2001. By the time I met Hayden, I had lost the ability to drive consistently, to walk without a cane, eyesight in one eye, my athleticism because of pain and heart damage, depth perception, and the ability to work at the non-profit I cared about and get together with friends and family. I described my life as a series of doors closing and making my world smaller and smaller. Hayden came into my life to help me walk without falling, retrieve things I dropped, negotiate stairs and uneven ground more safely and to bring me a medicine that I could not get on my own when I needed it. Hayden has been by my side for nine years, and although he is aging and slowing down, his personality, love and joy remain abundantly evident. No matter what I face each day, I have my joyful and giving companion by my side, letting me know that I am enough for him and in this moment, there can be joy. I am blessed.
I have had Titus for more than six years, and he has enriched my life in so many ways. Not long after I was paired with Titus, I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment. Having him always by my side gave me the confidence to live on my own and empowered me with greater independence. When I drop things at work (except for chocolate), I no longer have to ask for help. Instead I simply ask Titus to ‘get it’, and ‘bring it here’. Titus is all too eager to comply, because as a Retriever, it’s pretty much his favorite thing to do, and there is always praise or a tasty treat ready for him as payment for his service. Titus is so friendly and warm that his presence breaks down barriers, opening the door to much appreciated normalcy in a life overshadowed by awkwardness and disability. I am so incredibly grateful to have Titus and can’t imagine living without him. He is quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I have the great people at Summit to thank for that!
My son, Jason, is an inmate at the Monroe Correctional Center. He called me the night he got his first dog, Baylor, to train. He was so excited, and Baylor soon became the number one conversation during our calls and visits. He really loved Baylor and bragged about what a great joy it was training him. I have sent him some articles about Baylor’s success with his new owner, and he told me how great it feels to be part of something so good. Jason told me that he and his fellow inmate trainers feel good doing something that will help others rather than hurt others. It’s their way of giving back. They all thank Summit for the opportunity to do what they do, and they really have pride in the program. I can’t tell you how much it has changed Jason, and as a mother, it feels so good to see him totally interested in something that does so much good. Thank you, Summit.
Baylor and his new partner Alex
Summit Assistance Dogs | PO Box 699, Anacortes, Wa 98221, USA