View Products |  Sign In

Canine Assistant

June 30, 2020

Since 2020 has a recurring theme of being a never-ending dumpster fire for everyone, I suppose this bit of news was inevitable. A week ago, my family and I said goodbye to my service dog, Pandy, after a solid decade with her.

What started as a series of hip pains turned out to be a rampant bleeding tumor. She contracted a fast and paralyzing illness, but thankfully didn’t have to suffer long. My dad told me how peacefully she went at the veterinary office, and I had the opportunity to say goodbye beforehand.

I don’t want to use this column to dwell on the circumstances of Pandy’s passing. Instead, I want to reflect on the time I had with her, and how she helped me grow as a person.  I had my reservations about getting a service dog. My parents thought it’d be a good idea, but I was a stubborn teenager who thought it was too much responsibility. Not only that, I also dreaded the attention that would inevitably come with it, and the cringeworthy statements that people would say to me.

“Aw, she’s your best friend, isn’t she?”

“You’re in love!”  “That’s a good companion you’ve got there! Is she your special friend?”

These kinds of anticipated comments made me hesitant about acquiring a service dog back when my parents first pitched the idea. I already received plenty of questions about my chair and my disability, but a service dog would eliminate any sense of normalcy in my life.

Still, my parents were adamant that I could benefit from having a canine companion in college, and we started discussing it when I was still in high school. It took some convincing, and I remained apprehensive about it throughout the process. Even when I was paired with Pandy, I still had my doubts. My parents reasoned that if I was ever alone on campus or needed help, they’d feel safer if I had a trained service dog with me. Stubborn as I was, I agreed to go through with it and see what would happen.

We worked with the organization Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization based outside Atlanta, Georgia. The dogs there are trained from birth, and once they are about 18 months old, they start getting paired with people. Matches are based on personalities, compatibility, and how well the person and the dog work with each other.

Yes, it sounds exactly like an online dating site. The organizers even compared acquiring a service dog to getting married and having kids simultaneously. None of this was helping me combat the stereotype about my dog being my closest friend or significant other. Hence, the sense of dread surrounding all of this continued to persist.

Yet here I am, 10 years later, and I wouldn’t trade our relationship for anything. Yes, Pandy was a ton of responsibility. And yes, I received numerous cringeworthy statements whenever I was with her in public. Looking after her was exhausting at times. But no matter what, she was always there for me. She challenged me in ways I can’t even put into words, and she helped mold me into a stronger and more empathetic human being.

When we got the news of her illness, I knew that the hardest part would be letting my community know. As I’ve been thinking about all of our times together, particularly at NC State University, where I went to college, I knew many of my friends considered her family as well. Since her passing, old colleagues and professors have sent me messages about how much they adored her.

Things for her haven’t been the same since I graduated from college and started working remotely. Those years were some of the best for both of us.

I know she’ll be sincerely missed. I’m also thankful that these past few months at home inadvertently gave me more time to spend with her. Our final memories include quiet evenings in our front yard, with her at my side while I listened to music.

Ok, that’s enough sentimentality on my end for at least a year. I’ll end this piece with my go-to service dog joke.

“Oh look, it’s a seeing-eye dog!”

“Yeah … I’m blind and in a power wheelchair.”

Register Your Dog

  • Recent News

    Dog Joins Fire Service Team

    July 6, 2020

    The two-year-old spaniel named Phoenix has been trained to detect the location and cause of deliberate fires over the past year. Phoenix can detect the slightest trace of ignitable liquids up to one metre below debris left by a fire, Glasgow-based firefighter and dog handler Jonathan Honeyman revealed. But the clever pup’s talents do not […]

    Read more

    Service Dogs Helping Veterans

    July 3, 2020

    A nonprofit providing service dogs to veterans and first responders at no cost in Pittsburgh is making a real difference. Their actions and local support are making us proud to be from Pittsburgh. At a Grove City park, five military veterans gathered after being paired with their newest support animals. “It’s just remarkable, I cannot […]

    Read more

    Police K9 Unit

    July 3, 2020

    From vomiting to diarrhoea, the canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads between dogs… and if untreated, it can prove deadly. In Gauteng, police service dogs are bred and trained at a specialised K9 facility that’s been overwhelmed by an outbreak of CPV and this year, over 30 state-owned puppies have […]

    Read more

    Fundraising For NEADS

    July 3, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp in fundraising for a nationally known nonprofit agency. As a result, Bay State Savings Bank has announced a fundraising drive to support NEADS, which trains service dogs to help people who are deaf or have a physical disability. The campus is at 305 Redemption Rock Trail. The fundraiser […]

    Read more

    Bloomingdale's Service Dog

    July 3, 2020

    The Bloomingdale Police Department lost one of its own this week, a four-legged warrior named Kane. Kane, the department’s service dog, died in his sleep Tuesday at the age of 6 from unknown causes. His time as a member of the force left a remarkable impression on his handler, who said the German shepherd will […]

    Read more

    From Shelter Dogs To Service Animals

    July 3, 2020

    Matt Kleeman was a U.S. Navy Diver stationed in Connecticut when a nearly-fatal car accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and facing an uncertain future. ”I wondered how am I ever going to be independent again, what’s going to stop me, how much can I take things,” Kleeman said. His determination to move […]

    Read more

    More Then A Service Dog

    July 3, 2020

    Take one look at the fox-red Labrador retriever sprawled across the living room rug, and you might easily mistake him for an easygoing family pet. But Tom Garrett of Janesville knows the 92-pound dog, named Clifford, is so much more. Just look at what happens when Garrett brings out the harness. The hulking Lab jumps […]

    Read more

    K9 For Warriors

    July 3, 2020

    All-Elite Wrestling performers got a show of their own with visits from K9 for Warriors service dogs. Several professional wrestlers earned some new fans this week of the four-legged variety before taking action in the ring at Daily’s Place. Ponte Vedra Beach-based K9 For Warriors brought a team of seven service dogs-in-training to visit with […]

    Read more