Saturday, July 16, 2022

Using a Service Dog to Gain Independence!

 So here it, July 16th and I'm just not getting to a point where I can write my first blog using the theme "Independence!"  If you know me personally, you probably already know that I've been struggling with symptoms caused by my disabilities for the last few weeks.  In the last 18 or so days, I've had about 3 where I didn't have a migraine or autoimmune issue dragging me down.  But I don't want this to be a "Woe is Me" post and I'm not going to go into tons of details about my medical issues.  Instead I want to focus on how my Service Dog, Azul, makes it so that I can be more active and independent in my day to day life despite my disability.

My Heart, Mi coraz√≥n, My Little Goober

Migraine Alert & Response is Azul's #1 job.  Since I have more migraine days then not, Azul is trained to pick up on changes in migraines and alert me to when it's going to get bad before it gets bad.  Thanks to a medication routine, I have one med that reduces the impact or prevents the migraine from becoming severe most of the time and one med that I can take as a rescue to stop a migraine that is about to be pushed over the edge of my threshold.  Azul knows this by scent change in a way that I could never tell myself.  Migraines effect me kind of like a wave, most days (including right now) I have pain that ranges from level 2-4 non-stop and that sometimes makes me wonder, is it going to get worse.  Since I don't want to take meds needlessly just in case the pain is going to get bad, Azul's ability to alert before it gets bad helps me to avoid taking meds too early.  On average Azul will alert to impending doom about 45-55 minutes before I fall over in misery.  This allows me to get my rescue meds on board rapidly which makes a world of difference in the activity I'm able to do that day!  

Azul is also trained to find my meds & water to help me take them if I'm not able to get up and go get them myself.  This might not seem like much, but it's amazingly helpful on those days where the migraine hits hard and fast.

Azul is also trained to alert to a rapid increase in my auto-immune flares and episodes of extreme dizziness or vertigo.

These medical alerts make it possible for me to do routine things such as grocery shopping, driving, and even going to see my dog training clients without fear of getting someone and doubling over in pain being unable to make it back home.  Since I'm the main driver for family, running most of the errands and taking care of business this is extremely important!

Azul also helps with light mobility tasks.  Chronic illness can cause some pretty extreme fatigue on any given day.  Some days walking 2-3 miles unassisted, yet other days even walking 20 feet without assistance is an extreme challenge.  This gets even more difficult if I'm walking on uneven or slippery surfaces.  Azul is trained to walk at my side providing a slight forward pull and provide counterbalance assistance when need.  This assistance makes it possible for me to hiking, kayaking, and attend events with my friends and family.

There are some other random tasks that Azul is trained to assist me with.  For example, if I'm out and about with a family member and suddenly become disoriented he will help me find a family member by name which can save valuable energy for where I need it most.  He also is trained to help me find my car, which is amazing on days where my memory is fading fast.  Azul will also tell me when I've been pushing myself too hard and need to sit down to take a break.

I commonly get asked how I can be disabled when I look totally normal.  And to that, my answer is always that I would gladly trade places with someone to allow them to walk in my shoes for a day.  That is not medically possible and honestly I wouldn't wish my ailments on my worst enemy.  I'm just thankful that I have a Service Dog that is able to help through each day and I'm not quite sure what I would do without him.

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