A Day of Valor for My Hero Dog
By Saralee Perel
Our border collie is named Becky. I learned of her extraordinary heroism during a staggering experience at a lovely pond near our home.
One day I told my husband, Bob, that I wanted to try walking a short distance on the path around the pond again. Ever since my SCI, I've stopped trying many things I've loved and could still partially do, if only I had the courage.
Bob said, "But you could fall, even with your canes. And you can barely walk."
"I can't keep living life being scared."
Dog day afternoon
Like many partially paralyzed people, I don't get normal signals as to how high to lift my feet over branches and rocks, so I need to stop and look down to make sure I'm raising my legs so they'll clear the obstacle. To look at my surroundings, like the exquisite woods we were in, I need to stop and not move.
"Once you're safely over that log," Bob said, "you've got to stand still and hold on to me to see what's coming. You'll love what you're about to see."
I stopped, looked up and saw two beautiful, though immense dogs.
"They're gorgeous!" I called to two women with them.
Becky was panting with excitement. She wanted to play.
When Bob said I'm spinal cord injured and asked them to leash their dogs, one said, "They won't hurt her."
"My wife has no balance." Bob was frightened.
Becky, no longer playful, was now in a regal on-guard stance, bearing the ancestral majesty of a border collie in the Scottish Highlands. She was magnificent.
You fell on purpose!
"Please!" Bob said. "If they knock into my wife, she'll fall."
"Are you deaf? They won't knock into her."
"She could break her neck." He was right. Now he was enraged. "Put them on leashes!"
The dogs crashed into me and slammed me to the ground.
Neither woman asked if I was okay. One shouted, "You fell on purpose!"
Bob made sure I wasn't seriously injured. I didn't think I was. Then, he was finally able to hold on to one dog. He looked for its license number but the dog wasn't wearing a collar.
"Are they licensed?" he said.
"What's the number?" He took out his pad and pen.
They laughed, "Who knows?"
"I need your names and phone numbers," he said.
The women walked away, shouting again, "She fell on purpose."
Dogging the bad guys
Sweet Becky took out a dog's first aid kit - her tongue. She licked my knees so I'd feel better.
Bob and Becky began approaching the women. They said, still laughing, "You gonna follow us to our house?"
Bob said, "I'm following you to your car for your license plate number."
We could see that their car was only a tenth of a mile away on a dirt road far from any street. We never allowed Becky off leash although she was expertly trained and I knew Bob could call her back. He finally gave the command she couldn't wait to hear: "Becky, go!"
Her nickname is Becky Bullet. She got to their car before they did. Then she ran repeatedly from right to left, herding the group to their car door. Next, she crouched down in that intense border collie stare that meant, "Nobody move."
"We're calling the police," one owner said. "Your dog is vicious."
Knowing Becky wouldn't harm them, Bob said, "Go right ahead." (They never called. They were bluffing.)
They all rushed into the car and slammed the door. Bob had their plate number.
We drove to the police station. The officer made sure I didn't need a doctor, then listened sympathetically. We filed a complaint. "Just sign," a gal said, "so the animal control officer can go to their house."
I was afraid. Then I thought, "If I give in to fear, then I'm giving those women power over me. And I refuse to let them have that claim."
Whatever the officer said to them, it surely made an impact. Every time we've seen them since, they've quickly spun around and scurried away.
Maybe they took away my bravery. I hope that won't last. But there's something they can't touch. The heroics of Bob and Becky, the loyalty and love of my faithful, wonderful dog, and my unstoppable, though uneasy perseverance to never stop trying to face what I fear.
Award-Winning columnist and novelist, Saralee Perel, frequently contributes her columns to us. Her newest book is Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance. Read about her challenges after her SCI, stories of her caregiver dog, and her human family too.
For more information on Saralee, her book order information from Amazon or the publisher, even to purchase a signed copy, please visit her website: SaraleePerel.com.
Saralee is also on Facebook. Visit her page, Saralee Perel Presents Gracie, My 4-Footed Coach.
Arkansas Spinal Cord CommissionThe mission of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission is to administer a statewide program to identify and meet the unique and lifelong needs of people with spinal cord disabilities in the state.
CaringRoad.comCaringRoad.com is dedicated to helping family caregivers obtain information, locate services and find support so they can make informed decisions about the care of their loved ones. An online community of family caregivers.
CareCure CommunityCareCure Community features a SpinalNurse bulletin board with informed comments on matters of the bowel, and all issues of paralysis.
Canadian & American Spinal Research OrganizationPromotes and supports funding research to ultimately find a cure for paralysis. Also publishes journal of latest research they fund. Call (800) 361-4004 or use the link above.
Canadian Paraplegic AssociationAssists people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve individuality, self-reliance and full community participation. Call (613) 723-1033 or use the link above.
Craig HospitalWith funding from the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, has developed educational materials to help people with spinal cord injuries live in the community maintain their health. Topics include skin care, exercise, heart disease, weight control, alcohol abuse and conditions related to the aging body. Use the link above and click on SCI Health and Wellness.
Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.
Caregiver.comOffers a directory of support groups for caregivers.
The Caregiver InitiativeA project of the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company to help family caregivers provide care to their loved ones and reduce their own stress. Includes information on caregiver needs, and training materials for family caregivers.
Determined 2 HealProvides helpful information for the newly spinal cord injured.
Family Caregiver AllianceCaregiver Media Group is a leading provider of information, support and guidance for family and professional caregivers.
Family Caregiving: It's Not All Up to YouNFCA and the National Alliance for Caregiving launched a public education campaign to give information and support to caregivers.
FacingDisability.comFacing Disability is a web resource with more than 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caregivers and experts. I know that this is a lot to ask, but we'd be so grateful for your help. I'm looking forward to discussing this link with you, and to answering any questions you may have.
Model Systems CentersA federally funded program of 14 specialty medical and/or rehabilitation centers across the US. The SCI Care System collects and submits acute, rehabilitation and follow-up (annual, long-term post-discharge) data on SCI patients who received care in the these centers following injury.
The Miami Project to Cure ParalysisThe Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has studied functional electrical systems for exercise.
Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.
National Family Caregiver Association (NFCA)The National Family Caregivers Association educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships and life stages to help transform family caregivers' lives by removing barriers to health and well being.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)NSCISC supervises and directs the collection, management and analysis of the world's largest spinal cord injury database. Headquartered at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA)At NSCIA, we educate and empower survivors of spinal cord injury and disease to achieve and maintain the highest levels of independence, health and personal fulfillment. We fulfill this mission by providing an innovative Peer Support Network and by raising awareness about spinal cord injury and disease through education.
National Alliance for CaregivingThe Alliance was created to conduct research, do policy analysis, develop national programs, increase public awareness of family care giving issues, work to strengthen state and local care giving coalitions, and represent the US care giving community internationally.
New York Online Access to Health (N.O.A.H)Offers information and links related to spinal cord and head injury treatment, rehabilitation, and children. Materials in Spanish.
Neuroscience for KidsOffers an understandable look at the segments of the spinal cord; from University of Washington.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA): Spinal Cord InjuryFor more detailed information on the clinical practice guidelines on respiratory management with spinal cord injury you can request booklets from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. These booklets also provide guidelines on proper weaning from a ventilator.
Red Cross Family Caregiving ResourcesInformation for caregivers.
SpineUniverseAt SpineUniverse our goal is to help patients and their families understand their back or neck problems. In clear, straightforward language we aim to explain what causes spinal problems and how they can be treated. We are committed to ensure that all of the information we present is trustworthy and of the highest quality.
Spinal Cord Injury CaregiversYahoo Internet Forum is a place to share information and to support other caregivers who are caring for people with SCI.
Spinal Cord Injury Information NetworkThe Spinal Cord Injury Information Center features clinical information about bowel management and all other medical issues of paralysis.
United Spinal AssociationOur mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet: VA and Spinal Cord InjuryOf the more than 250,000 Americans with serious spinal cord injuries and disorders, about 42,000 are veterans eligible for medical care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Well Spouse AssociationA national, not for profit membership organization that gives support to wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled. Through information and support groups, the organization address issues common to family caregivers: anger, guilt, fear, isolation, grief, and financial threat.
Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.
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