My name is AJ Brockman and I am a digital artist, designer, and positive thinker. I also have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a progressive neuromuscular disease, and have been wheelchair-bound since age two. My disability definitely influences who I am, but it does not define me — as an artist or an individual. I view myself as being “differently abled” rather than “disabled,” and I live life to the fullest every day.
I received my first Canine Companions for Independence Skilled Companion Dog, Larry, at the age of 12 at their Northwest Region in Santa Rosa California. From that moment on Larry and I were best friends and Canine Companions had given me the gift of independence. Larry was instrumental in helping me make friends and break down barriers during a crucial time of growing up in middle school. Unfortunately, our four-legged friends have very limited time on this planet and I lost my best friend about two years ago. It was very difficult to move on after such a loss and to this day I wear a necklace containing Larry’s ashes right over my heart.
All this time while growing older and pursuing a career in fine art my disease was progressing and slowly robbing me of all physical movement. I had to transition into using a computer and computer software to “digitally paint” my artwork with just a use of one finger. I graduated college as valedictorian with a bachelor of fine arts degree and made the decision to reapply for a full service dog from Canine Companions.
I received my new Service Dog Dre on Valentine’s Day 2012 from the Southeast Region in Orlando, FL. He is a 70-pound full-blooded black lab with the biggest blockhead you have ever seen – to fit all those brains of course. From day one he acknowledged my voice and responded with robot precision to anything I would ask. Looking at me with his big brown eyes, he is always ready to help. While painting on my computer sometimes my hand gets tired or falls off my desk. Well, Dre is right there with his wet nose to push it back up for me. Above all, I feel a sense of comfort with him and his menacing bark has alerted someone I need help countless times. He is my arms and legs, psychiatrist, wing man, drinking buddy, protector and truly my best friend!
Dre and I have been nominated for the 2013 Hero Dog Award’s presented by The American Humane Association – because Dre truly exemplifies what it means to be a hero. Voting will continue until July 30th. You are able to vote once a day for Dre at this link: – http://bit.ly/199Ozrk
Also, if you would like to keep updated on our progress and receive daily reminders please visit Dre’s fan page at https://www.facebook.com/DreHeroDog.