Sedona Our Service Dog

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on June 11, 2020 # Lifestyle

Zack turned 16 the week he was released from the hospital, after suffering a spinal cord injury. His injury was from a beach accident making him a C-4 quadriplegic before he was even old enough to drive. The teen years are an important part of figuring out who you are. Zack had a large group of friends his freshman year. After being injured he left school, not returning until his junior year. By then many of them had moved on. His closer inner circle was there but as time went on, they were seen less and less often. I give grace to them because as teens themselves no one knew how to handle his injury or what he could do with them. We do have some good memories of things he was able to participate in, but at this time in Zack’s life he was lonely. Being an extrovert, he was energized by friends, people and going places.

I never saw my son cry not even over his situation, the unimaginable reality of becoming a quadriplegic. I can remember Zack laying in his hospital bed at home, I just heard once again a friend cancel and Zack extending grace saying ok, I understand. I walked over to him, tears were in his eyes, he turned his head away from me, he couldn’t even wipe his own tears away. This was another heartbreaking moment for me. Zack and Sedona college graduation

When he brought up the idea of a service dog, I was all for it, (minus the extra work involved with adding a pet) but with the persuasion of Zack and the other three kids we were able to convince my husband. We heard of a place down in Oceanside, CA. that provided no cost service dogs to those who qualify. We called and had an application sent to us; we gathered the info needed and sent it back. There were several steps to go through, last one was a personal interview. Once that was completed, Zack was placed on a 2-year waiting list. I was disappointed about the wait because he needed it now, to our surprise we were called a year later. We headed down south and checked in to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Both of us didn’t know what to expect, we had packed our bags to stay 2 weeks, which was the length of the training. We were shown to our dormitory and had a tour of the facility and beautiful campus. A lot goes into the matching of these dogs to the new owners. CCI has 45 years’ worth of experience! These dogs are trained top notch. We were in a class with nine other recipients. There was class time, note taking and interacting with the dogs, after the third day they were paired up. It was announced that Zack would be with Sedona. We learned a bit of history about Sedona, she was 2 when we got her. Sedona had been raised in a women’s prison program, in Texas. We were able to meet the lady who ran the program and took Sedona home at night, as well as connect with the women who was in the program and helped care for her. She was well loved and affected many people already in a positive way. Sedona was flown from Texas to California (to CCI) where she spent 6 months in training. Only 10% of the dogs make it from this point. Zack and Sedona

After our match we spent the day with her, the first night of her sleeping in our room we noticed something…Zack and I were each in a twin bed, the dog was in the kennel near us, lights off and about to fall asleep when were heard it, a loud noise we didn’t recognize at first, took us a minute then I said “Zack is that the dog Snoring!” Sure, enough she was and still does to this day. People ask us what does she do for you? Well, she knows about 40 commands. After Zack started college, she was a fantastic ice breaker, people would stop Zack to ask about the dog. She can open doors, pick things up off the ground and barks on command if there was an emergency. She has been with Zack through good times and bad. Sedona has been a great companion for 8 years.

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

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.