May 08, 2007

My cocker spaniel saved my life



When I was recovering from that broken leg, my shrink recommended that I get a service dog. She thought a Cavalier King Charles spaniel would be the right size and have the right amount of energy to keep me mobile but not overwhelm me. So I searched online for a rescue dog and found the perfect animal…

This dog was listed on petfinder.com as part Cavalier, part cocker spaniel. Perhaps 7 years old, he had been abandoned at a Portland, Oregon animal shelter and was a day away from euthanasia when he was rescued. He was named Pumpkin for his sweet nature, was brought back to good health, neutered and micro-shipped and listed on the internet for adoption.

The day Pumpkin came to Seattle, my shrink had arranged to meet him with her special dog, Arturo Tosca-Bow-Wow. Arthur was particularly good at measuring the temperament of other dogs. Dr. Judy knew that if Arthur approved, Pumpkin would be the right dog for me. Well, Arthur and Pumpkin hit it off right away, and as they played together in our living room, Pumpkin came into our lives.

Dr. Judy wrote a prescription which I carry in my wallet:
“Jill Cohen suffers from a serious medical disorder that impairs her quality of life and mobility. I have prescribed a service dog to assist her.”

Over the coming months and years, as I recovered more completely, Pumpkin became my constant companion. Together we walked every day and my leg got stronger. Pumpkin goes with me to the oncologist, to treatment, to my support group. He goes out for lunch and for coffee. We run errands together to the post office and even to the grocery store. We’ve been through radiation treatment twice: once for my hip and once for both arms. We even go to a special yoga class for cancer patients, where Pumpkin excels at the Downward Dog pose. When I have Pumpkin with me, I’m able to go and do.

Dr. Judy says that Pumpkin has an uncanny ability to become like a piece of furniture. When we are out in public, he instinctively goes into a long “down” at my feet. Pumpkin has done basic obedience training with me. By temperament, he is suited to being a service dog. He has passed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test and proudly wears this patch on his vest.

Pumpkin’s vest also has a patch saying ”Ask to pet me, I’m friendly.” Many people come up to say hello when we are out and about. He is always friendly and well mannered. Indeed, my husband and I sometimes wonder if his previous owner was in a wheelchair, because Pumpkin seems particularly sensitive to chair-bound folks we meet.

So how did Pumpkin save my life? Well, having to walk him twice a day meant I had to become more active and regain strength in my legs, despite having multiple sites of bony metastases throughout my skeleton.

My husband and I have been through infertility and heart disease as well as breast cancer treatment. Our five attempts at private adoption failed when the birth mothers decided to not to place their children for adoption after the babies were born. International adoption was out of the question – we were told that no judge in another country would place a child with us given our health history. And even our home state would not place a child with us through the “foster-to-adopt” program. So Pumpkin has also become a substitute for the child we so wanted to raise.

Mostly though, Pumpkin loves me. He gives unconditional love, just because I rescued him from a shelter. He needs me, and I need him. Together we make a fine team!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:49 PM

    Jill--I enjoy reading your very sensitive blog, and I smiled at your account of Pumpkin the Wonder Dog! You are lucky to have each other. :)

    My son Jacob just left for Seattle today (Redmond, actually) where he will be working for Microsoft this summer. He is looking forward to the weather there which is heaps better than Cincinnati's!

    --Claire

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I dance with cancer. Oy!