Living with autism, sensory issues, and psychiatric disorders is never easy, and many are not able to comprehend the number of problems I face daily. I have to run and jump twice as far to reach the same goals that all of the runners reach in the great marathon of life. Each day is a struggle. However, many of these challenges melted away and new doors opened for me when I received my service dog from Susquehanna Service Dogs, Delancey.
Service dogs are not “cure-alls” for a disability, but Delancey changed the way I view my autism and disorders. I can now do anything I want to do. Forever as a team, a girl and her dog. Despite the process being arduous in numerous ways, the payback of having a normal teenage life was like being showered with gold in the temples of Montezuma. I felt euphoric, triumphant, and released from my blockchain prison after getting her. My mission to heal, regain full independence, and cross new horizons was coming to fruition.
Of course, it took time getting used to her and this taught me valuable lessons on compassion and communication. If I got upset and frustrated, she would not be able to help me, so I changed the way I communicated with her in order to help her understand my needs. I was purely amazed at how she gave me the precious gift of controlling my emotions, through proper communication. This resulted in me having a calmer attitude and a change in perspective. She knows what I need from her. Walking into a place that once made me upset, anxious, or overloaded is much easier and less stressful. I have trust in my dog to help me. I take a deep breath, and I feel safe. As a result, I have the confidence in my confidant as we conquer uncharted territories. I am now able to cope with a panic attack, meltdown, depressive episode, or sensory overload. My partner is able to get me back to my equilibrium in minutes by alerting me to skin picking, soothing deep pressure therapy, and providing space in public. I am never judged by my service dog. I can always cry on her, and her love and devotion to me gives me reason to live my life fully. If she wakes up every day with a wagging tail, kisses, and following my every move, then I need to show her that I can carry on.
Delancey improves my social skills on a daily basis. I am very shy talking to strangers and even some family members, but my service dog has opened me up to educate others on how a dog can change one’s life. People are often enlightened by my passion and knowledge for service dogs. It puts an acre-long smile on my face to see others be touched by what she can do, and what they can do to help others like myself. I am a happier person, a better daughter, an upgraded friend, and a more well-rounded academic. Test anxiety fades with Delancey by my side. I get better grades; I enjoy school more. I go through many training challenges with her, and my service dog relies on me as much as I rely on her. We have laughed, loved, and experienced the menagerie of life's ripples. We count on each other to get through our good and bad days.
Delancey is my organ, best friend, and the galaxies to my universe. No words can capture her full impact on me. I cannot imagine my life without my service dog by my side. I can’t wait to attend college, go to work, and lead my best life with her by my side. There is something that SSD always says that is cheesy and cliche, “Dogs change lives”. Delancey has not changed my life, she has saved my life.
Esh Builders is proud to have been part of the project to build the Susquehanna Service Dog (SSD) training center. SSD is always looking for volunteers to help raise these wonderful dogs so they can help more people like Ava lead their best lives. Click here to find out more about becoming a puppy raiser.