A dog is your best friend

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on March 27, 2017 # Mobility

I grew up with dogs, labs and golden retrievers. My love affair with dogs started at birth, as I was born in October 1977 and my family purchased a beautiful Labrador Retriever puppy in September a month before I was born, named Joshua. Joshua was the smartest of animals, known best for his ability to sneak out of every door and unlatch every fence gate to run wild in various neighborhoods. He was my protector, and my best friend. Apparently, I used to bite on his soft floppy years as a teething infant – he would cry, but never bite me. This was his character, and I saw him more as a brother than an animal – he was part of our family. Joshua died when I was 13, We had to put him down due to cancer – it was the hardest day and I will never forget him as my first pet.

After Joshua, in came Goldie – a beautiful golden retriever that was present during my teenage years. She also passed from cancer, another heart-wrenching loss after many years of teenage dog friendship. Then came Hunter, a yellow Labrador Retriever that looked exactly like the dog from that movie a few years ago, Marley and me. He was the sweetest dog, a snuggler who followed you everywhere you would go – never wanting to be alone. He loved fireplaces and sunny days on the deck, and as long as he was by your side everything was okay. Hunter also succumbed to cancer after 13 years and he was the last family dog we ever owned. It simply became too hard to say goodbye to these wonderful animals after years of loving doggie friendship.

College and grad school came and went, and I chose not to own a dog as academia and traveling took the forefront – a dog did not fit my vagabond lifestyle. As I entered into my 30s, I promised myself I would eventually get a dog as I settled down – maybe when I got married and had a family. Or maybe just when I decided to stop traveling. Marriage and kids never found me and a few years ago I sustained a catastrophic cervical spine injury leaving me a quadriplegic, limiting such life experiences. The irony is that now I really need a dog; I need a companion – especially since my injury and living alone in my apartment in Denver.

I have applied to numerous dog companies, Canines for Companions being the first choice.After applying three times and being denied three times, I begrudgingly have looked into other options. I am on a two-year minimum waitlist with Freedom Service Dogs of Denver and am actively applying to Domino Dogs of Denver and Support Dogs out of St. Louis, Missouri – all organizations that provide specialized service dogs to individuals such as myself at a low cost or even free, due to our needs of companionship and service. I have even considered purchasing a dog outright to be trained by a specialized dog trainer for such special needs, although these dogs cost anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 for training, an expense I simply cannot afford – who can?

A dog brings such love and happiness to one's life, providing companionship and friendship to any situation. They are protectors, intuitive of your needs and observant of the injured quick to physically stay by your side just as a sentinel would guard his brigade. My hope for 2017 is that one of these companies I have applied will read my application, take note of my heartfelt essays and approve me for a service dog. It would make my solo existence less solo and bring happiness to my day-to-day activities knowing that my animal/my protector is there for me in any situation. A dog is your best friend and I'm looking for him – is he out there looking for me?

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.