Sabrina’s Loyalty

Lisa Mae DeMasi offers you all a beautiful guest post.

Not going to allow my words to delay you reading this wonderful essay from Lisa.

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How this Handler and Service Dog Nurture One Another

by Lisa Mae DeMasi

At two years old, Lady’s ribs protruded from her coat and her belly was swollen with milk.

Like the thirteen other Labs that had arrived at a rest stop in Union, CT on the straight 12½-hour drive from Muncie, IN, she was presented to us on a crisp autumn day amid the chaos of respective adopters.

My husband Dennis had never experienced the warmth and companionship of having a dog and well, I surprised him with Lady, who we quickly renamed to Sabrina. The very afternoon we picked her up, we raced to the park, wanting her to feel the joy of freedom and play. My husband’s face lit up and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to befriend and care for Sabrina; it meant closing the 20-year gap since our beloved German Shepard from my childhood passed away.

Until laying my eyes on Sabrina’s profile, my heart couldn’t entertain loving another dog.

And what canine isn’t after the same love?

 In Sabrina’s case, she couldn’t know of the family members that awaited to embrace her presence. Within days of the initial hair-raising excitement, the cat sought out occasions to groom her ears. Our pet rat was free to waddle the kitchen floor un-bothered, and the pair of bonded bunnies in want of company stretched out beside her on the living room floor.

Dog, cat, rat, rabbit?
You bet.
And Dennis and me?
Like kids again.
Sabrina settled into the folds of our lives, well-nourished and exercised in Boston’s epic snowfall in the winter of 2009-2010, taking careful watch over all of us. The fear expressed in her eyes pre-adoption disappeared.
Eight years later, she watches over me in particular. Thirty years ago, I was struck and thrown from the passenger side of a car until my abdomen collided with the steering wheel—blunt force that called for iterative repair to my digestive system  and caused permanent damage to the nerves that signal my bladder is full.

Today when I’m busy working away, Sabrina will alert me to get up every couple of hours to make a trip to the restroom by gently placing her head in my lap.

When I suffer acute intestinal cramping, Crohns-like symptoms, she’ll sit at my side and lean her body against mine. Her calm and steady source of nurturing, helps me to relax and mitigates the cramps.

In 2008, the Department of Justice amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was amended to include digestive, bowel and bladder impairments that limit major life activities as the disabled, calling for employers to make reasonable accommodations and if the individual elects, to allow task-oriented service animals [dog or miniature horse] to accompany them on the job.

Sabrina, serving in the capacity of a sensory/medical assist – alerting me to get up and take care of myself –  qualifies.

The HR Director, Debra Susler of Reputation Institute in Cambridge, MA this past April would not allow Sabrina to accompany me on-the-job. I sent her an elaborate email explaining my condition and Sabrina’s certification. She did not reply to me but to my supervisor.

She said “no”.

My response?

I walked out of the place

Sabrina: rescue dog to devoted helper dog.

Respectively, Sabrina’s competencies and understanding of language cease to astound us and her behavior on-the-job at Dell EMC is so well-mannered, coworkers never run out of compliments.

And bystanders in public? The grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dentist, doctor?

Gazes from cell phones are broken, conversations fall short.

Then, come the smiles. A question. Praises. The feel-good moment.

Sabrina brings people together.

I recently read a distressing post from a woman who said every time she looks into a service dog’s eyes, she sees sadness. Even Ingrid Newkirk, CEO and Co-Founder of PETA, has told me, “the life of a typical service dog is a terrible one.”

It’s true. Any canine enslaved to servitude is doomed a dog’s life unlived.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

The ADA confirms it.

But that’s not the relationship Sabrina and I share [and I understand it can’t be the same with other handlers and service dogs]. In addition to being my devoted helper, Sabrina teaches me to exist in the moment — just like she does. To enjoy the sight of the sun shimmering through the trees, the call of the birds, the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of the soft soil I tread a few yards behind her when we’re on our hikes.

What more could a dog do for a girl?

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There is something rather special about Lisa’s guest post; special in an introspective way!

That will be better appreciated if you go across to Lisa’s blog site at Nurture Is My Nature.
In particular when you read, via her ‘About’ link, what Lisa offers about herself. Republished here in full.

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As time goes by and you’re getting older and stuff like that—getting older sucks. You know, I hear all this crap about, ‘Oh, you can age with dignity.’ Really? —Mickey Rourke

Lisa’s creative work has recently placed second in Fiftiness’s 2017 Writing Contest (Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston) and been featured in the anthologies, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty (9/17, print) and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (11/17, print). Her essays have been published in the lit journals and several other media outlets. She considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and holds a Master certificate in Reiki.

Lisa is seeking a development editor [that gets her] to work on her collection of essays and her memoir.

Published work:

Contests:

Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston, Fiftiness, Second Place Winner, 5/23/17

Anthologies:

  1. The Kickass Formula that Restored My Libido, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty, print, 9/17
  2. Grievances, Vine Leaves Vignette Collection (coffee table book), 11/1/17

Literary journals:

  1. This Writer’s Secret (Fiction Southeast, 11/1/170
  2. Snowflake (Crux Magazine, 9/17) [FINALLY got picked up!]
  3. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Gravel, 12/4/16)
  4. T-boned (Gravel, 12/4/16)
  5. Forgive Me (Slippery Elm, 12/16)
  6. What More Is There to Ask? (Foliate Oak, 9/1/16)
  7. Becoming Our Fathers (East Bay Review, 2/23/16)
  8. The Subversive Writer (Shark Reef, 7/9/14)

Media Outlets:

  1. Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path (Fiftiness, 12/16)
  2. What More Is There to Ask? (Huffpost, 9/16)
  3. The Secret to Doing What You Love (The Artist Unleashed 9/16; HuffPost 3/15)
  4. The Kickass Formula That Restored My Libido (HuffPost 2/16; Rebelle Society 4/15)
  5. My Dear Friend, the Dirty (HuffPost 1/16; Elephant Journal, 12/14)
  6. She, Mother. Me, Daughter. (Huffpost 2/16; Elephant Journal, 1/15)
  7. What the Wrong Job Can Teach You (HuffPost 1/16)
  8. What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother (Elephant Journal, 1/15)
  9. Why Regret Is So Deliciously Fun (HuffPost 1/16; Midlife Boulevard 8/15)

 Write to me at lisa dot demasi at gmail

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Now please watch “Just Like Heaven,” the video Lisa filmed of Sabrina, post-adoption in 2009.

20 thoughts on “Sabrina’s Loyalty

  1. Loved this story. What a dog. I have never been impressed by PETA and now after reading Lisa’s story I am even more disappointed with PTA’S views and crass attitude. Not all service dogs have a sad look. Every situation is unique. I think the misconception about a service dog’s face is because they are quite serious by nature and they only are service dogs because they like their job. Service dogs can’t be made. Yes, they can be trained but it is a talent they are born with. They are like someone that is born with a God given singing voice. They live to perform for the human that they love. Sabrina is a beautiful dog and may she have many healthy years to come.

    1. Thank you, Pets, People and Life! Quick plug about PETA: they LOVE animals and their way of advertising is geared towards getting people’s support to help them spare animals–all kinds–from cruelty. PETA has changed their campaigns over the years to be more on the educational side. Oh, the gruesome footage is still there, but PETA is full of devoted and marketing savvy staff who work for little money and possess big hearts. About service dogs: Sabrina, aka “Babe-Sweets,” “Sweets,” “Babes,” “Pup-Sweets” is beautiful. And yes, I think service dogs are serious and dedicated to performing a job, but behind that exterior is a dog that longs to leap for joy and play and be loved. I am working to advocate a bit more for handlers to provide service dogs with some freedom to be doglike. 🙂 Thank you for your comments and fabulous to hear from you!

      1. Yes. PETA does much good but they are out of bounds sometimes and that is how I see the organization. I’m sorry that I don’t agree with you completely.

        Here’s wishing you all the best with your wonderful dog. I loved your story and style of writing.

        Regards,
        Yvonne Daniel

  2. This post brought tears of joy to my heart. Having a pet therapy dog myself, I know first hand the impact these amazing creatures are capable of handling. All with grace, in-the-moment attention and a friendly tail wag. Kudos to both Lisa and Sabrina❣️

  3. What a moving and enlightening story.. I see and hear so many differences from the law we have here in the UK to the states.Regarding Animal helpers and can not believe that womans attitude at not allowing Sabrina ..
    Another great Post Paul.. Thank you 🙂 Hope the dust has now settled with the flooring??

    1. Incredible differences even between State to State. Wonderful country but it’s a rare week that goes by without me learning something new about ‘speaking American’.

      Flooring job scheduled for this weekend.

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