After fourteen years with too numerous to count misdiagnoses, this is my daily journey living with an unknown disease that has made me fully physically dependent, living by the help from my family, friends, and beloved service dog. It is how I have chosen to define myself to remain whole in spite of it.

Meet Camelot. He is my white stand poodle service dog who, just happens, manages my life. Yes, he agrees that it is a very large, unenviable job. Thankfully, he performs it with tolerable complaining. No, he is not full of himself, but simply confident. He knows my body better than I do, and he can sense before I can when my body is about to have an episode. When I am not well, he literally lays on top of me and will not leave for any reason until someone he approves will stay with me for the few minutes he's gone.

When I am well, he declares when it's play time. He brings his favorite pillow to me—which he has claimed as his toy when my mother was going through her cancer treatment—and whacks me until I can grab it and either throw it or tug with it. (After all, everyone needs their play time.)  Outside, he'll play with my mother's dogs, escort them, and then go running back out and wait for me to join him so gets to play one-on-one. Now, to be honest, that is the ideal scenario with a service dog.  You want a dog that is a well-adjusted dog: they get along well with other dogs, like to play, sniff, and love to be obnoxious to those near their territory. And yet, Camelot is so bonded to me that he likes to play with me, yet also trusts me to see to some of his needs. This is partly exceptional, as I can't feed him, it's rare I can take him on walks, and he's been let out and played with at times with so many others.

Yet, Camelot also knows when he is on duty and working—especially when it is out of the house. His manners are impeccable wherever I take him. (Once I was able to go to a restaurant and wait for take-out, as it was a five-minute walk from our hotel. Camelot was just eight months old and already going everywhere with me. We were at an outdoor table, a French fry had been left on the ground, and Camelot never even touched it!) When he was in the hospital with me last year for two long stays, he only left my room to see to his needs outdoors, and he never got territorial of the room, never got rambunctious, he just pushed me around the hospital bed for hours so that he could get comfortable.

That is my Camelot. So many more stories to come. 

 

Introducing Watson & My Elephant

If We Were To Meet