MY FIRST YEAR WITH TIPPY
This Wednesday, February 13th, will be the one year anniversary of my partnership with Tippy. As I look back over the year, I remember the emotion with which I faced our adventures.
From the moment I met Tip, he has blessed me with the eye contact that assures me that all will be okay, that he’s “in it” with me, no matter what we may encounter. And, that has definitely been the case. I wasn’t sure how I would handle a new partner. Would I be able to love him as I did my first partner? Would he be able to “read” me the same? Would he be able to fit into my life as seamlessly? Within the first hour of our meeting, all my concerns were put to rest. I felt like I had been partnered with him for years. The love I felt for him, and he for me was nearly palpable. It still amazes me that this can happen almost instantaneously. It felt as though he could sense my confidence that lay just below the surface, and allowed it to rise to the occasion until it felt natural once again. The fact that he was so laid back, and prefers to wait for direction was just what I needed at that time.
Training was actually exciting, as I watched Tippy look to me for guidance, and then carry out exactly what I asked. Both Tippy and Richie, my classmate Andy’s pup, were amazing. I often look back and feel that they led us through the training. Brian was a great teacher for us. As the 2 dogs were products of the same prison program, Concord “Farm” (NECC), they had trained together, with Brian as their trainer and so our class was a great adventure. I feel that Andy and I were blessed with these 2 absolutely amazing dogs.
Service Dogs, that is, and that is exactly what Tippy has been for me this last year….among so many other “titles”! Service Dog, Life Coach, Travel Companion, Cheer Master, Confidence Builder, Confidant, Snuggle Buddy, Heating Pad, Physical Support, Life Saver….both literally and figuratively…., and perhaps, most of all, Best Friend. Tippy has slept through church services, attended dinners, kept me calm during flights, and been by my side, as I continue my work with the US Pain Foundation, while I speak and testify in support of the rights of people living with chronic pain. I have to mention here that the latter would not be possible without Tippy, and my classmate from my first NEADS class who introduced me to this new me….the one that is not terrified of speaking in public.
Tippy has accompanied me as I testified in New Jersey, Rhode Island, before the FDA in DC, and as we traveled to St. Louis to speak to a group of employees from a major pharmaceutical company about what it is like being a person living with chronic pain. He has been by my side when I was interviewed for both television and print. He has entertained children and adults alike with demonstrations of his amazing skills, along with some “fun” behaviors.
We just returned from DC, where once again he proved to be my distraction from self imposed stress. I actually don’t get stressed any more before speaking, but looking at him lets me know that everything will work out just fine. This time, when I walked up to the table to testify, Tippy automatically went under the table, turned around and lay there waiting for me to finish and begin to rise when he, too, rose and stood at my side so I could brace myself to stand. No commands were necessary. This is what is meant by seamlessly fitting into my life. He delighted the hotel staff with his behaviors and personality, and made a long 4 days more like a vacation than work….
The bottom line is….would I have rather not gotten ill? Absolutley! But, had I not, I would not have received Tippy, and found out what I am truly capable of….a whole new life, truly enhanced by the blessing of my Service Dog, Tippy, and my new family at NEADS…..