The Gift of Independence can come in Unusual Packages
The Gift of Independence Can Come in Unusual Packages
By Annie Uyehara
Dana Bohannan wasn't ready to get another dog. She lost her beloved Bandit, a chihuahua, just two weeks earlier. But ain't it running the way things work out?
Bohannan was dropping off Bandit's leftover meds at an animal rescue shelter and was asked if she'd foster Charlie, a mutt who had been in the kennel too long, unadopted. She agreed to take Charlie for 72 hours.
Bohannan has Cerebral Palsy (CP) on one side of her body. When the challenges of CP loomed large she had a supportive family to help her face them. She'd never had a service dog before and she never expected Charlie to be that dog.
"Charlie protected me from the start, he acted like a shield for me," Bohannan recalls. "When it was time to return him to the shelter, he wouldn't get out of the car, he refused!"
While she was there, she developed a migraine headache and Charlie wouldn't leave her side. "He was very attuned to me, very attentive."
Charlie needn't have gotten out of the car that day. He had a new home with the Bohannan's. A friend familiar with service dogs gave Charlie tests and surmised that his previous owner must have trained him as a service dog because he focuses on one person at a time; he walks close to his owner, and; he senses their needs.
Bohannan registered Charlie as an ADA Official Service Dog, complete with a photo license.
"I have much more independence because I can take Charlie everywhere and not have to depend on others to get me around," says Bohannan. "I used to be afraid to go on walks for fear of tripping and falling. One time, I fell and Charlie stood next to me stiffly. I used his shoulders to stand up."
Charlie tends to her emotionally as well. "I used to get nervous about people watching me at the store. But now he draws attention away from me because he's a very handsome dog."
As she talks, he's right beside her, sometimes laying his head in her lap or reaching out a paw. "He gives me dog hugs," she grins.
It's a "relief" to have Charlie, she says. "Service dogs provide opportunities for people with disabilities to be independent physically, but they also help emotionally. "I was bullied a lot when I was growing up, and I'll stand up for myself and others when that happens. The relief is, Charlie knows me and because of that I can interact with people better; I don't have to explain myself to everyone."
The American Kennel Club Guide Dog Facts: