Power of the Paw

Last night, as I typically do, I had the TV turned to ABC’s World News Tonight hosted by David Muir as I prepared and then ate dinner. Sometimes, I find it is merely background noise, something to fill the house with the sound, but occasionally, there will be a story on air that truly speaks to me. Little did I know, however, how much it would impact me in particular, last night. At first, I was barely listening, watching the TV screen, but not actually absorbing what was airing, until the image of a small child named Bella and a large, 131-pound Great Dane, named George graced the screen. At first glance, what a pair they were, walking side by side, albeit the same height, but a significant difference in weight and body shape. Though, as the story continued to air, I quickly realized how significant of a relationship they actually have; well beyond that of a traditional pet.

Bella and George

For those of you who might have missed the story last night, here is a link to the video: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/special-bond-young-girl-rare-genetic-disorder-service-34980708

For Bella, George is not only her dog, but her constant support, teacher and guide. Born with a rare genetic disorder and diagnosed at age 2, she was unable to walk and potentially confined to a wheelchair. However, enter George, a Great Dane service dog, who has been by her side now for years, aiding her in walking, serving as her constant companion from the moment she wakes until she sleeps, with George still by her side, providing comfort, guidance and a watchful eye. As I watched Bella and George’s story on TV, I was overcome with emotion, true, raw emotion. Sitting beside my mom as I watched, tears filled my eyes and then down my face, as the bond of Bella and George was one evoking an emotional reaction behind words. As a dog owner myself, for over 13 and a half years, I know firsthand of the bond between a human and their dog. The journey of Bella and George is an incredible story of how dogs can truly change lives, not only as companions, but as a true guide and helper. Each day, George is beside Bella, aiding her in mobility and the everyday activities of living. He helps her live her life as a child her age should be able to live – with the freedom of movement and the ability to explore. Watching them walk beside each other, with George in step with her every move, brought not only tears to my eyes, but also a smile, so proud to see dogs being honored and embraced in this way, giving them the spotlight, they deserve.


Bark Around the World

Good morning! I hope your week has been a pleasant one and that your weekend will be filled with fun, sunshine and relaxation! Originally, I had intended to compose this very post yesterday, after first reading the to-be mentioned article, but honestly felt too overwhelmed with emotion to do so. I figured this morning would be best, after I gave myself a chance to digest all I read.

If you’re a social media follower (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc) of news organizations/TV stations, such as ABC News, or a follower of various magazines, such as Health or others, then it’s very likely you’ve already seen, read, or heard about the heart wrenching story of New York City resident, Thomas Neil Rodriguez and the trip around the world he recently took with his terminally-ill, 15-year-old mixed-breed dog, Poh and his fiance.

Poh 2

Together since Rodriguez adopted him in December 1999, Rodriguez described Poh in an interview with ABC News (via http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/york-man-takes-dying-dog-bucket-list-adventure/story?id=31338158) as, ”

“My life is kind of hectic,” Rodriguez said. “I’m always traveling, but Poh is my home, my child. I think this resonated with a lot of dog owners. They wish they could do stuff like this with their dog and spend these moments, but sometimes life gets in the way.”

“I am super blessed that I have actually gotten to do this,” he added. “People think I take care of Poh, but Poh takes care of me.”

Back in March, the 12,000 mile journey throughout the United States commenced and was documented on an Instagram account he created to show others of their experiences. Several of the photos were shared on the aforementioned ABC News article and one in particular brought tears to my eyes. Though the story in general left me in tears for a good portion of the day, the photo of Poh in a wagon, with the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge as backdrop, touched a part of me that hasn’t been that moved since my own dog, Oliver had a recent host of health issues. What I felt when looking at the photo and simply reading through the article is something that is truly difficult and near impossible to place into words.


In thinking about it, I suppose what really got to me, is the notion of me being a dog owner since a couple days before my 14th birthday. As a child, I begged and begged my parents for a dog, always finding comfort and solace in them. Beginning from when I was 9 years old, I was enthralled with dogs. Towards the end of May, as a 9-year-old, my sister and I took comfort and comradeship with the dog belonging to the family who lived behind us. Our grandmother had recently passed away after an intense, 6-month battle with Leukemia and being able to play with Darby, the friendly Golden Retriever in our backyard, was the best therapy that could have ever been offered to me. He stayed by my side, licking my hand, taking delight in my playful nature. He offered a distraction from the sadness and loneliness I felt.

From that moment on, I desperately longed for a dog and for my 14th birthday, my wishes were finally answered. Seeing an ad for Bichon Frise puppies in the newspaper, my mom took my sister and I one Sunday afternoon to choose the puppy we wanted and having tied a blue bandana around him, Oliver was chosen. It’s hard for me to remember what life was like without Oliver. Of course, it’s not to say life has been easy with him, because it hasn’t. It has been a challenge, both physically and emotionally. Throughout the years, we’ve watched him battle through infections, surgeries, surgical errors, and a host of other issues, but his resilience has always shone through. Throughout all of it, no matter the obstacles thrown his way, he’s always risen above, maintaining his strength, sometimes sobbing, but still making it through, his tail wagging each day, greeting me when I walk through the door.

Oliver tongue

Though sometimes I can become frustrated with him, he is my family. It’s hard for me to imagine my house empty, without him. So perhaps this is why reading about Rodriguez’s journey with Poh hit home. Reading about their adventures together, seeing the passion and joy they experienced, is something I long for with Oliver. Looking back on old pictures of Oliver, it’s hard for me to remember when he used to move about easily, sitting perched on top of the sofa, eagerly running up and down the steps. Being 13-years-old now, it is challenging for him to move around, as the arthritis often reduces his mobility. My life with him consists of patience and understanding. It’s all I can do to repay him for his patience with me, seeing me cry as I experienced the many disappointments in life. Though I am often distracted by my own personal struggles, Oliver always seems to look at me with a certain sense of pride and understanding and he is forgiving.

Oliver in his shirt

If nothing else, Oliver teaches me what it means to be resilient, forgiving and understanding. He offers me companionship and like Rodriguez and Poh, for the past 13-years, he’s been my consistent home.