Imagine for a moment being completely unable to hear. Imagine the utter silence. Imagine how it would be not to know the sound of a gentle voice, the song of a bird, or the beautiful sound of a Beethoven symphony or the sound of rushing water crashing over a waterfall. Those who cannot hear are locked out of an entire world completely filled with sound. Then one day someone flips a switch and suddenly that world opens up because now the one who was deaf can hear. Just imagine hearing for the first time the beauty of a loved one's voice, a baby's cry, or the sound of a choir singing in perfect harmony. Getting my first service dog was exactly like that for me. Born with cerebral palsy, lack of balance and all the physical and emotional challenges that go with it, I had no idea of the world that I was missing. Of course I coped-and even did a good job of coping-but my world was a lonely place. A simple trip to the grocery store, and I might encounter a curb I couldn't step up, or an obstacle in my path that I couldn't step over. It was commonplace for me to ask my two and four year old daughters to brace for me so that I could step up curbs or get out of a chair.
It wasn't until my daughter raised a puppy for Canine Support Teams (CST) that I discovered the usefulness of service dogs and the wide assortment of tasks that they can perform. Even then, I didn't quite believe that a service dog could address my particular needs. I was too accustomed to my world to know how a service dog could help me in my situation, like someone born deaf would never know the world of hearing she was missing.
One day I was with my friend Jack, and we were about to enter a pet store. Jack was training our pet dog Sasha how to walk nicely on a leash and behave in public. When we came to the curb I had nothing to lean on, and I didn't want to ask Jack for help, so I dropped to my knees and crawled up the curb. Completely shocked, Jack suggested that perhaps I could use a service dog for this task. Over the next few months he kept encouraging me to consider the benefits of a service dog. Finally, I applied to CST, but I really didn't expect much. I did not yet understand how a service dog could truly help me.
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