In 2008, our son Rob was in a car accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for five weeks and in various hospitals for months. When we brought him home there was so much to learn, transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed, hooking him up to his feeding tube, medication and therapies, how to get him to different appointments. We were overwhelmed. So, when a friend suggested applying for an assistance dog from Canine Companions, I couldn’t imagine how a dog would be anything but more work.
Still, I applied and waited. While we waited, Rob improved. He no longer needed a feeding tube and cut down on his medications. We got a wheelchair van and even getting out seemed a bit easier. Despite everyone’s determination, there were things we couldn’t do.
But Deirdre could. Deirdre is Rob’s assistance dog from Canine Companions for Independence.
During Team Training when Deirdre stayed in the dorm room with us overnight, she slept in Rob’s bed with him. It was the first night in three years that Rob slept through the night. I began to understand how much an assistance dog could help.
Because Rob wanted Deirdre to respond when he called her, his speech improved.
Because Rob wanted to play fetch with Deirdre, he learned to open his hand. At first, Deirdre helped by placing one paw on Rob’s forearm to steady it. Then, she used her other paw to gently extend his fingers and drop the ball into Rob’s hand. After just one week, Rob could open his hand independently—because of Deirdre.
Because Deirdre sleeps with him, he’s able to sleep uninterrupted. Rob explains, “She stays by me when I’m scared, confused, or alone. Really I’m not alone, because I’m with her.” With Deirdre, Rob’s sleep apnea has even improved.
Deirdre is so attuned to Rob that she anticipates his needs, like lying on his feet when he can’t keep them still. Her companionship has brought Rob immeasurable joy and comfort. She motivates Rob to keep working even though it’s tough.
Deirdre is such a part of Rob’s recovery team that we have even included her in our bike rides. Rob’s dad, Dave, built a tandem bike that he and Rob ride together. The cadence of biking is helping Rob relearn the cadence of walking. After seeing a cyclist pulling a dog trailer, Rob asked, “Can we get one of those for Deirdre? She wants to ride with us.”
Now when we get ready for a bike ride, Dave and I transfer Rob from his wheelchair to his recumbent seat on the tandem. We strap Rob in and hook his shoes to his pedals. Deirdre waits patiently until Rob is loaded and then heads over to the dog trailer attached to my bike.
We’re so grateful to her. Deirdre is not just Rob’s Hero Dog, she is our Hero Dog and a part of our family.
To vote for Deirdre for the 2013 Hero Dog Awards, visit: http://www.herodogawards.org/vote/?nominee=72887261