Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AUSTIN - He's My Hero

Submitted to: http://www.ruledbypaws.ca/2012/06/assistance-dog-blog-carnival-call-for-submissions/      for blog carnival.

I will be the first to admit that I never expected it to be this way. I didn't expect to be so attached to an animal. I mean, come on, I grew up w/ dogs all my life. I raised them from puppies and spent restless summer afternoons running in the dirt and sun w/ them, cried when they died, and attempted to make sure they had a proper burial. They were well loved, well fed, cared for and spoiled - But they were pets. They were dogs.

But, AUSTIN is NOT a dog. AUSTIN is not a pet. AUSTIN works every day and has earned his place in my home, the food in his bowl, and the bed, pillow, and blanket in which he slumbers. AUSTIN is the partner of one RCY. Together they are a team, and together they can go anywhere. That alone means so much. B/c of AUSTIN, R. has freedom and mobility again that he didn't have with the white cane. B/c of AUSTIN I have a little more peace of mind when I am not with R. B/c of AUSTIN, R. wasn't hit by a van 2 weeks ago. B/c of Austin, R. makes it home safely w/o a scratch every time he ventures out. AUSTIN was the one who curled up on the floor next to R., scared and worried when he passed out on the floor, while I was at work and none the wiser. AUSTIN takes care of my man when I can't. AUSTIN is an extension of my husband and is therefore, an extension of me.

I didn't realize the impact AUSTIN had on both R. and I until this past weekend. This weekend my oldest brother got married. Those of you who know LG know how he is, and for those of you who don't just understand that in many ways he is grossly uninformed but absolutely comfortable with that.

As is customary at weddings we were all getting ready to take a family picture. As R. and I are walking up, my brother informed me he didn't want "the dog" in the picture. To this I just look and Mom and said, "What!?" To which my mom restated, "He doesn't want Austin in the picture." Once I picked my jaw up, I was livid to the point of tears. But since it was his wedding day I gave him what he wanted. I held it together long enough to inform R., who was likewise appalled, make sure that AUSTIN was in the hands of a trusted friend, and take the necessary photos before I walked out and broke down out of anger, embarrassment, and disgust that my brother could be so insensitive (though admittedly knowing him I should know better). I realize that he may not be informed and educated on the etiquette of what it means to have a guide dog. But to R. and me, it was like telling an amputee that you wanted them in your picture but they couldn't wear their prosthetic. We felt like LG was saying, yea you're family but I'm ashamed that you're blind. It was at that point that R. and I both realized just exactly what AUSTIN meant to us both, which for me was a shocker.

I knew that it would be a huge impact to our lives. I knew that having a Leader Dog would not be like having a normal dog and that it would come to mean so much more. But I wasn't expecting this type of reaction from myself, especially after so short a time.

So to all friends and family, you should know - AUSTIN is a member of our family. To deny AUSTIN is to deny us. If AUSTIN is with us, which he usually is, and you want to take a picture; AUSTIN will be in it or you'll just have to take the picture from waist up or crop him out yourself. From here on out, I don't care if it's your wedding or not, that's how it will be. If you don't like it, don't invite us. That's just how I see it.

Service animals aren't pets, they are partners w/ the person for whom they service and are valuable beyond measure. Service animals and their humans are a team and together they are both empowered. Remember that next time you see someone w/ a service animal. I'd be willing to bet, that service animal is as valuable to them as any person in their life. So consider that before you try to separate them for any reason, even if it is just for a picture.

I love my brother, but I am yet to see him put on a harness and guide my husband around all day to make sure he doesn't trip on a curb, run into a wall, or get hit by a car. AUSTIN on the other hand....well, he's my HERO.


blaine said...

I can understand both sides of this picture problem. Your bro is kuntry as all get out so, of course, his world is much smaller than your world. He can't really understand how living an atypical life is actually just YOUR typical life. Austin is part of YOUR typical family.

On the other hand, I see your point in a way. My mama has talked me out of having a family picture made with Ab in her wheelchair. It annoys me to end because that wheelchair is her mobility, her very tiny piece of independence. It is a very big part of the Abigayle package. It is kind of insulting to say that it does not belong in a family picture.

I am almost posted "not that I'm comparing Austin to a wheelchair" but ya know what? I am. Both provide some semblance of "normal" to the lives of people we love. And both belong in family pictures.

Marion Timmermann said...

Very well said....I cried as I read it....my heart goes out to you, Robby and of course, Austin. I never thought I would have a "dog" as an inside "pet"....I don't...Moxie is part of our family. A weight was lifted off of my whole body when I knew there was a "connection" of Henry & Moxie at the school. I can start to live my life too...taking care of myself...not being greedy, just being a human. I can take the time to fix my hair so I will "look" good for my husband that cannot see my face anymore...but you know...it makes me feel better and I have more time to laugh and enjoy our new member of our family. I could go on & on....hopefully more people will one day "think" a few minutes more....and know...it's a tough job to "walk" in our shoes. Stay strong....Love you & hope to meet you Lynn!!

pattib said...

Awesome post. I'd take Austin's picture anyday!

MariaJoy said...

Stop making tears come to my eyes!!!!

TheUnSoccerMom said...

ugh... I'm a bit disgusted w/ LG. Ignorance is certainly NOT bliss in this instance.

And... TOLD YA SO!! Told you you would love Austin. ;o)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Anonymous said...

I was at leader dog with your husband and this story you wrote brought teears to my eye because it is so true. If any one told me jetta would not be allowed in a picture with me I would tell them that I will not be in the picture as well. YOU are so right that Service animal are family. Jetta is not just my partner she is my best friend who keeps me safe everyday and gives me the confidence to go where ever i want with out fear of being injured.
Sometims i think sighted people are just plan arrogant but would not know what to do if they ever lost their sight. And I am not sure if there is way to teach them how important a leader dog is to their master. But i can not say all sighted people are like this becuase that would be including the trainers at leader dog who do understand this and are one of the goup of people i believe who doesn 't take their sight for granted.
Thank you for this story.
Tina gruchow and jetta

Unknown said...

Blaine, I agree with you completely. I understand that Garvie just doesn't know, which is why I let it slide. However, he will not be able to use that excuse next time. I know what you mean when you say Austin is comparitive to Ab's wheelchair, and I agree with it. Freedom and independance is a beautiful thing and denying something that is such a huge part of a person's life is like denying that person. I read Robby what you wrote and he agreed. So if you ever want me to come and take family pics of you guys, wheelchair included, I would LOVE to do that.