My name is Samantha. My 23rd birthday was March 7th. One week before that, I became a
bi-lateral amputee. I came to Roger C. Peace Hospital for rehabilitation, where I met and worked with Kathi Katko, my physical therapist, and Kristen Kirkland, my occupational therapist. These two amazing women have influenced me so positively during my stay, and they also influenced me to reach my full potential for the rest of my life. They taught me that even though I am now a bi-lateral amputee, I can still do all activities and sports that normal people do, and even more.
Besides my amazing therapists, family, nurses, doctors and neuropsychologist, Laura, there is one other person who has helped me the most during my stay. That other person is Lonnie, the facility dog partnered with Kathi Katko and trained by Canine Companions for Independence. The reason I say Lonnie is a person, is because he helped me heal exponentially in ways a normal person could never be able to.
Growing up I never owned a dog, or a cat. Although I did have a fish, which were fun to look at and take care of, I always wanted an animal I could actually interact with. I am a genetics major and I am naturally fond of animals and all living creatures, even bugs, snakes, and insects. But out of all the dogs I have played with throughout my life Lonnie is the absolute most amazing dog I have ever, and will EVER meet in my life. Not only does Lonnie understand over 40 different commands, but he takes his job of helping others around him very seriously, especially me.
Every morning at 8:45 I was greeted by Lonnie at therapy, and the sight of him smiling, wagging his tail, and running to me to come give me kisses, immediately brightened my day. During my daily exercises he would come sit next to me, lick me, and make me laugh and smile, at a time when I felt that laughing and smiling was an impossible feat. Lonnie warms my heart and soul in ways that only a four-legged companion could.
On two particular days when I was very upset about my situation, wondering why God had chosen me to suffer this hardship; why my whole life had to be changed, my world turned upside-down? I was so upset that I couldn’t possibly crack the slightest smile. But suddenly, Lonnie would hop up next to me, immediately start licking me and my tears would slowly turn to laughter and big smiles. Lonnie would stay and cuddle with me all the while I was sad, just as if he could feel every emotion I was feeling, just as strong as I felt it. I could feel that he shared my pain, joy, and every emotion I experienced. That is why I say Lonnie is just like a person, because he could immediately feel my emotions even stronger than other people could. If Lonnie was a person, he would be an extraordinary, absolutely amazing one, since he has a soul more beautiful, pure, and generous than any person I have ever known, or will EVER know.
Without Lonnie, I would not have reached the level of positivity I have achieved today. I will miss him every day I am home, being the sunshine to illuminate my mornings. I have never gotten close enough to any animal in my life to say I truly love him or her, but Lonnie, I truly love that dog with all my heart. I wish he could be mine, but he has many other smiles to give and hearts to warm.
To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence visit: www.cci.org