Exactly one year ago I wrote this.
I put myself out there and came out to my family and friends about something in my life I hadn't wanted to talk about. A year is a long time. On one hand, I can say: "Wow, it took a whole year to get Owen! I thought we would have been here a lot sooner..."
Or, I can say: "Wow, all of this in just one year!" (This is how I have been feeling lately.)
One year ago, the majority of my friends and extended family had no idea what I was living with. One year ago, the idea of a service dog was a dream. Something I was wishing for. Today, it is a reality. Today, I am open about what I live with. I share things with both my family and my friends about my disability and the hardships it brings. And I am walking tall with a service dog.
In one year I have become a teacher. I don't have my own classroom yet, but hopefully one year from now I can be writing that instead. In one year I have graduated Magna Cum Laude from college and begun my graduate career. A year from now, I will hopefully be writing that I graduated (dare I say it?) Summa Cum Laude from graduate school and that I have finished my thesis. In one year I have flown on airplanes 11 times, twice with a service dog. Next year, it's possible I will be on more flights (what with having to travel for job interviews and moving), but all will be with my service dog. In one year, I hope to be able to write that I took a cruise with my service dog, something I have been looking forward to for a long time. In one year, I have found inner peace.
With Owen, I feel at peace. I'm not terrified to go out in public anymore because I know that Owen will help me when I need it. He takes care of me. Owen follows me around like a shadow, always there just in case I might have a chance to give some pets. He makes me laugh on a daily basis, and I have to take care of him, which means leaving the apartment (or house) multiple times a day. I feel safe with Owen. I don't have to rely on family members anymore as mobility support. I don't have to ask them to do things for me that I want to be able to do myself. And I have a way of gaining back my peace when my brain threatens to take it away.
I wrote back at Thanksgiving time, all the things I was thankful for, and they all stand true now. Part of me feels like Owen was a missing puzzle piece. He fit right in immediately, it was like he was always there sleeping next to me at night and waking me up in the morning. He and Toby acted like they had lived together their whole lives. The other part of me feels like I still can't believe this is real. Like I can't believe that I'm actually with my service dog and that I feel safe and strong going places with him. I wonder when that feeling of newness will wear off, but I kind of hope it doesn't. I love waking up with Owen everyday, and I'm excited to go places with him. It isn't something I dread anymore, it's something I look forward to. I look forward to seeing how he will handle a new situation and I look forward to running the same easy errands with him that we do all the time, because they're actually easy now. I love snuggling with Owen and loving on him and getting to know his personality more and more every day. I love feeling happy.
A lot changes in just one year.