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.

Treadmill: Not Me, My Dog

Confession: my first service dog, Zella, enjoyed to run on the treadmill. She would just walk right on, tail wagging, and someone would press “start”, go to a comfortable speed, and she would just run. One of my mother’s dogs, Parker, loved to run on the treadmill. He would walk on without prodding and stand there, waiting for someone to walk over and turn it on. Even if you said you didn’t have time, he would glare you down for a three-minute trot. Like I said, he loved it.

Now, the fact that Zella was able to run on the treadmill was truly a brilliant gift. Why? Well, several years ago I still had clearance to fly, and every year or two my mother and I would go on a trip. Not wanting me to leave me alone in the hotel for long, and being unfamiliar with the area, my mother would rather take Zella (with me in tow) down to the gym to run her, rather than go for multiple long walks during the day. It was fantastic. There we were, me in my almost obnoxiously large orange wheel chair, tilted to about 60 degrees, sweat in the air from the dedicated exercisers in the gym, Zella running on the treadmill, and Mom (with magazine in her hand) keeping an eye on both of us.

It was only made more perfect when you could hear muttering from a few hotel guests who were lifting weights. Once a woman walked past us and said she thought it was great. I completely agreed. And if anyone muttered too close to me, they would have heard an earful from me, anyways. Throwing me in and out of a chair is no lightweight duty that my mother does a hundred times a day.

     When Zella retired and Camelot eventually entered my world, I dutifully started him on the treadmill. Camelot, however, concluded that it was a piece of exercise equipment and declared it was not quite for him. This, in the end, pleased Parker; he never liked seeing another dog on the treadmill, especially if it wasn’t himself.

Music—My Life Force

Music—My Life Force

Snow Angels at the Cleveland Clinic