Home is such a vital part of who an individual or creature becomes in life. It dawned on me over this past Easter weekend, how imperative life is when we can fulfill our destinies. All of us become who we are when we have a place where we can grow, be nurtured, have fun, and simply, be ourselves. This week marks the one year anniversary of my Mother’s passing which while deeply sad, reminds me just how lucky I have been to be loved by someone so special, unwavering in her strength, and ability to laugh in the face of difficulty. It also is the welcoming of Spring, a sense of beginning and re-birth. For me, it is a journey of securing the well-being of a partner I dearly love and cherish, and starting to prepare him for his new role as treasured friend, companion, and pet to my husband and me.
As we are ushering in the season of blossoms and unfortunately, large amounts of pollen here in the South, I am realizing change is in the air. A year ago things I didn’t ponder, now cross my mind daily. Casper, while loving being a central, active part of my life, is tiring quicker these days, and I’m having to find more creative ways to conserve his energy, so that his working life is productive, yet still manageable for him. I am giving him more downtime and breaks, which makes his working more satisfying for him. For months I worried, “Would I be able to identify and let go when the time comes?” It sounds relatively easy, but it is much harder than one imagines. Deciding whether or not to take him on business trips, errands to the store, help getting out of the shower, or even, standing, bracing, and helping me rise from the toilet six to ten times a day. It is a job he dedicatedly loves and does without a hint of hesitance, but I realize each task uses his energy. So, I’m beginning a new phase of our partnership: The Road to Rebuilding! Reinventing how we complete tasks, renovating our roles, and revitalizing Casper’s love of being a dog!
Part of our rebuilding takes us back to the beginning of our partnership, to the very core of when we first met. I started with PAALS eight years ago, never with the intention of necessarily getting a PAALS service dog. I had a service dog, a white standard poodle, named Sparky. I contacted Jen because I was interested in giving back for the gifts I received in my life. I wanted to help other clients and the community learn about service dogs. Little did I know, while I was helping PAALS, PAALS would eventually change my life. Sparky eventually had to retire, and while I had my heart set on a PAALS black female lab full of zest, a yellow lab with the name of a ghost would woo me and capture my heart. At the time I met PAALS, they were meeting in community centers, Jen’s home, and a wonderful church in the area. Jen gave so much of not only her heart to each dog and client, but the space she and her husband reside, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Her dream was to have a home for her “BELOVED PAALS,” a place where dogs could be trained, clients could experience team training and bond, and the community could come together.
Jen as well as the trainers, clients, service dogs, and numerous volunteers make PAALS the amazing organization that you see today. It is in all essences, “A HOME!” As a client and volunteer, I have seen just how instrumental this home is to so many. When after almost ten years of hard work, PAALS dream of having a physical building came true, it was crushing when floods destroyed it. This weekend, Casper, my husband, Bryan, and I got to help in rebuilding PAALS. Why is this so important? It’s Casper’s home….his sense of nurturing and security happened because of these giving people. When we got there, he looked for Jen, and was surprisingly greeted by Rose, Alex, and Keith, three tremendous volunteers who fostered/pup-sat, Casper, Cole, a dog we had fostered, and North, a present PAALS dog. We also met, Eli and Nellie, two cats who live at PAALS and help train the service dogs to adjust to cats.
My husband helped with the construction work, while I gave input, and served as the cheerleader for the group. Casper played and checked out the new digs, giving all of the volunteers who have put hours upon hours into reconstructing the building, his enthusiastic wag of approval. Seeing his happiness as he played outside on the new grounds, and inside in the training room, reinforced why rebuilding and perseverance are so important. Truly, as the saying goes, “Home Is Where The Heart Is!”
I want to sincerely thank those who have and continue to help contribute to PAALS as well as my Team Training Fund. Your assistance is helping make my dreams of “Rebuilding” possible. The heart of me lies in being independent, and the heart of a service dog makes living an abundant life, a beautiful reality. From the training to the physical location where it takes place, your giving helps the heart beat stronger, and dreams of living without fear of falling, being able to get dressed each day, my husband not worrying if he’s away from me, not being stuck in the rain if I drop my keys or cell phone, being able to transfer to the toilet and flush it, riding the bus to work, and living with freedom and dignity the best gifts I could ever be lucky enough to receive!