Imagine dropping your phone while sitting on a barstool that your bum happens to be glued to. All together now: “Oh no! Not my phone!” Getting up is not an option. Now imagine that the stool has armrests.
Can’t reach the floor, can ya? Stinks, doesn’t it? It’s a situation that users of power wheelchairs find themselves in every day (except the barstool part).
Add to that equation a smart and capable dog who responds to the drop by looking up at you with big brown eyes that say, “Need help?”
The situation’s starting to smell better.
In February of 2013, Brenda and Buffy were matched, and I’m pretty sure it happened in heaven. (Get it? Match made in heaven? Yeah? Ok.) Buffy is a beautiful black dog, raised by the same CCI Puppy Raisers as Bright, May and Lauren Sikora, and trained at the John Miller Family Campus on Long Island. Her terribly attractive mug is only matched by her partner’s love and appreciation for her.
I asked Brenda how her life has change since Buffy came along; they’re early in their partnership and still learning about each other, but Brenda described two distinct sets of ways that Buffy enriches her life.
The first set is practical. Brenda uses a power wheelchair to get around, and little things that the average folk takes for granted pose major obstacles for her. One of Buffy’s main tasks is to pick up all of the things Brenda drops. Your first thought might be, “Why is she dropping stuff all the time?” I’ll tell you what: Limited dexterity, which wheelchair users often have, means that you spend a significant amount of your time watching your belongings free fall to the floor, then figuring out how to get them back. Really, it can cause serious anxiety. When there’s a dog who lives and breathes only to pick up your dropped stuff, life is easier. Buffy also tugs drawers open, pushes buttons for automatic doors, and opens them herself when needed.
The second set covers many of the things that can’t be provided by traditional assistive equipment like wheelchairs and those grabber things that you use to reach the remote when you’re laid up in bed. Brenda says, “…she provides companionship, unconditional love, and a bridge to a community of people who oftentimes are uncomfortable around a person with a disability.”
This isn’t to say that Brenda is otherwise unloved or lonely; she’s an active member of her community, and has supportive friends and family. Buffy, however, is able to help break down social barriers that might cause awkwardness or exclusion, and takes some pressure off of Brenda’s friends and family to be helpers and leaves more time for them to just be friends and family.
In her free time, Buffy likes to go to Disney World and wear her Mickey ears.