Goodbye Sean and thank you

Someone who was a significant source of motivation and inspiration for me died this week. Sean Stephenson. He gave us several life lessons that were particularly valuable to me. One "you are not your condition" really resonates. In it, he says "I am not disabled." Like him, as someone with a visually apparent disability, I have often thought this. Let me explain this important difference - being disabled is a mindset where as having a disability is a fact. Sean had osteogenesis imperfecta. I have cerebral palsy.

However, we are not disabled. We are not our conditions.

Sean said many other things. Here's a link to his Ted Talk:

Introducing Sully and some important considerations

The death of George H.W. Bush has spawned a lot of conversation and articles about the man, his politics and contribution to our society. This is particularly important to me, as he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Although I personally believe it to be a flawed piece of legislation, its passage into law continued a very important discussion, in a very meaningful way: how persons with disabilities can have a seat at the table and contribute mightily to their society. So for that (and especially for the protections the law provides to service dog teams), I am grateful and I know I am joined in my gratitude by many.

On a different subject, did you know that Bush had a service dog? No, neither did I. His name is Sully and he is a Labrador. Having completed his labor of love to support the former president, Sully is going to support wounded soldiers. You can read more about it here:

This article got me thinking. Sully outlived his human partner and plans have been made for him to continue with important work. If you are a person with any type of disability who outlived your service or companion animal, what plans did you already make to continue yours? If you are anything like me, probably not much, despite the pivotal role your animal played in your life.

We are here to help, with the grief, any anger or other emotions you may be feeling and to plan for the future. Just contact us on this website and it will be our honor to support you.

Service Dog PSA

While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Facebook or social media junkie (at least not yet), I have to admit there have been times when I really appreciate the power of the platform. This is one of those times. I was on Facebook and came across this post:

The morale of this story is simple: if a service dog approaches you without his/her person, follow the dog. They have been trained to get help when needed, so pay attention.

Personally, as a someone with disabilities and former service dog user, I have several stories of how my service dogs have helped me out of tight situations by summoning help. I use a wheelchair for mobility and my first one tipped over more times than I can count. There was one time in particular that I was going up a driveway because there was no curb cut and it tipped, trapping me under it. My dog, Sam (my boy before Max) didn’t have to go far for help. He brought a good Samaritan back who lifted the chair off me. He didn’t want me to move, in case I was seriously injured, but I felt fine, got up and went on my way.

My thanks go out to my beloved Sam as well as to the human who helped me.

If you’ve had a similar experience and want to share it, comment below.

If you’ve lost an animal who helped you and you need grief help, contact me through this website. It would be my honor to support you.

Are You Enough?

Recently, I was reminded rather forcefully about why I miss Max so much and I had to tell you about it. A member of my family is going through a rough time right now and I’m trying very hard to be supportive. Someone else asked me this question, or more specifically to enumerate what I bring to our relationship. My internal reaction was one of shock, particularly since I’m rather close to the asker. Later on, I got curious about my own thinking and actions. Do I believe I am enough? Do I act that way?

Having a physical disability isn’t easy. Opportunities can be limited, especially for those of us trying hard to contribute our gifts, or to simply earn a ‘seat at the table’ in order to provide for our families and plan for the future. Despite these trying realities, what we think about ourselves is critically important.

For me, that’s where Max was most valuable. He looked at me like I could do anything and I realize now that I believed him. I was enough just as I am.

Perhaps that changed after he died. I don’t know and it is something I have to ask myself. All I do know for sure is that I no longer have Max’ support now that he is gone. I’d like to think that I’m enough. That just by being the supportive person I am, I contribute mightily to any relationship.

For me, the answer to this question is I bring myself to the relationship. Max may not be here anymore, but what he taught me when alive still holds true. I am enough, just as I am. I can do anything I want to do.

If you are struggling with the same kind of issues or different ones entirely, it will be my honor to support you. Just go to the Contact link and send me an email.

Introducing Ability Connections

Hi- I know it has been kinda quiet around here for the last month or so. Sorry about that. A lot of things have gotten in the way. Nothing I really want to talk about and I can't promise it won't happen again. That said, keep in touch with us through this website and blog. We are here for you.

Since so many of you responded to my post about being alone, I've decided to start a YouTube channel called Ability Connections to address isolation and other topics of interest to people with disabilities and veterans. All the details will be posted here, so stay tuned.

In other news, Porche Charities has a new educational partner, PsychArmor:

Psycharmor is a non profit organization providing free training and certification to other non profits serving veterans. We are really excited.

Being Alone

I can only speak for myself.

I've been thinking about being alone a lot recently and about mistakes I have made. All of this introspection has led me to one definite conclusion: listen carefully to advice from loved ones because they care about you but don't take it unless you know, KNOW that it is  right for you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming all of my problems on bad advice. I am definitely responsible for the bad things that have happened to me lately and my only point is, because advice can alter actions, be careful with it.

That got me to thinking about the worst advice that I ever received and took from a loved one. It was to ask for help. Those of you who know me, know that I have cerebral palsy which significantly impacts my ability to walk and balance. Although I am ambulatory, I am also prone to falling and on this occasion was pretty seriously injured requiring a visit to the emergency room.

My loved one advised me to ask for help in walking before I slipped. My loved one's point was that the able-bodied people around me could protect me, doing what I wanted faster and better than I could with my physical limitations.

I took this advice to heart and henceforth asked for help whenever I perceived a need. What I didn't realize was that I was burning loved ones out and reducing my own abilities.

Through this process of introspection, I've now reached the conclusion that I'm far better off doing as much as I can for myself even if I hurt myself. To those who are burned out, I am profoundly sorry, wish you all the happiness you can find and hope the damage I caused you is of short duration. To my phenomenal network of supporters, thank you for supporting me in the way I would like to be supported. Especially to my Mom and Dad, you are the reason I can do so much, you taught me how to take care of myself expecting much from me. Thank you so much and may I always do you proud.

Again, I can only speak for myself. What is true for you depends on your situation. It is your life and we are here to help you decide what you need to live it to the fullest.

What does this have to do with service or companion animals? Good question. Everything. A large portion of our group is dedicated to helping you figure out what's right for you. Maybe what's right is getting another animal but maybe not. It's entirely up to you and it will be our pleasure to support you in making this decision or any others.

Service Dog to the Rescue

I was browsing on Facebook and came across this video I'd like you to see:

Full disclosure- I don't know this person or her dog. The internet is filled with videos like this one, of dogs doing amazing things. This one got me to thinking though. What does someone do when their dog is no longer around to support them?

I think the answers are as individual as you are.

We will discuss this in group and as always, it will be my honor to support you

Giving Tuesday and the Gates Foundation Matching Program. Big Thank You!!

I wanted to take some time to thank everyone who participated in Giving Tuesday and the matching program from the Gates Foundation through Facebook. I'm very happy to say that we raised much more than expected. Facebook also waived its fundraising fees for the day. Your matched donations will enable us to continue our important work to support veterans and other people with disabilities who are grieving the loss of their service, companion or other working animal. A big thank you and shout out to all donors, including Bill & Melinda Gates.

Thanks also goes to Guidestar for their support of Porche Charities and for recognizing our efforts. You can find our profile here:

Each by Name Conference and Happy Veterans Day 2017

Hello Again! The Porche Charities' initiative Animal Loss Counseling is coming to you from Sunny La Mesa at the Each by Name conference:

Being here got me to thinking about how we all contribute to our world. There are people with different skills and abilities: authors, dancers, beauty pageant winners and even boxers. This underscores what I've always believed. Everyone can do something. We just need the supports that work for each of us.

If one of your supports is an animal and you've lost that particular support, Porche Charities can help. Contact us today!

And I'd like to say a Happy Veterans Day to all retired and active duty military members, as well as their families. It is our pleasure to serve you as you have or are serving us.

Jobtoberfest 2017: Supporting employment and full inclusion of all

So here we are at Jobtoberfest, a job faire to promote the employment goals of people with any kind of disability. The turnout was amazing. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table to learn about the services at Porche Charities and to express your support for us.

You are the reason we are here and it is our honor to support you.

Truth be told, as I look at this picture (click on the title of this post to see it), I can't help feeling a little discouraged. There are powerful forces against us. The unemployment rate remains high, despite legal and other supports available on the job. Many employers still don't accept the concept of reasonable accommodations, especially when these involve bringing a service dog to work to improve performance.

But then I remembered something important. Together, we are stronger than the obstacles we face. We can do anything when we support each other.

That's the concept behind the 12 week group therapy sessions. You have lost your best friend. We can help. Just contact us through our website: New groups are forming now.

We Have a New Partner!

Whoever said "teamwork makes the dream work" knew what they were talking about. My dream, to support you through one of the most difficult experiences, just got a little easier. Porche Charities is pleased to announce its partnership with Next Step Service Dogs:

Next Step provides service dogs to active duty military members, veterans and first responders with disabilities like PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Porche Charities will be holding our twelve week groups at their location for members (existing and future) and alums!

We look forward to meeting you and to learning how we can support you.

Self-care, Essential or Just Hype?

I have to admit, this one is tough for me. The pressure of competing interests, be it related to achieving my own personal goals or to meeting others' needs, leaves little time for it in my busy life.

I make excuses not to take care of myself. I'm too busy, too stressed or simply just overloaded with other priorities. Then I get resentful, most resentful of the people who seem to be siphoning my energy and monopolizing my time.

Sound familiar?

I'll bet it does. Any service or working animal user knows what I'm talking about.

When Max got sick, all, and I do mean all, of my resources went into him. All of my time, energy and money was spent fighting cancer. Self-care was not even a thought, let alone any kind of priority.

(To those of you who saw this and supported us, thank you so much. Speaking only for myself, I could not have gotten through that time without you.)

What I realize today is that had I taken even minutes out of the day to practice self-care then, I would have been a better caretaker for Max. I would have been less resentful and more prepared for what was to come. 

Today, self-care is a regular part of my routine. It is essential to me, my well being and to my ability to be there for others.

Some great self-care recommendations related to the animal loss process, can be found in the Paws to Grace ebook:

They include: • Learn all you can about the illness: What you can expect, what may happen next. • One day at a time. There will be good days and bad days. • Take time away. Even one hour to focus on something other than caregiving can do wonders for your state of mind. • Keep a journal. Recording your events emotions can provide a release and help you recognize if your stress is getting to be too much. • Ask for help from friends and family: Many times people who love you want to help, but don’t know how. • Stay in touch with your sense of humor. There can be moments of laughter even in the darkest situations. Allow yourself to laugh. • Remember: Your pet loves you. He or she does not fear death. If what you are doing comes from a place of love, that is all you need to focus on.

What do you think? Click on this article and comment below. I'd be interested in your thoughts and in the chance to support you in group.

Are things falling apart?

Have you ever felt like things are falling apart and you are powerless to stop them? What did you do? Looking back, did your action help or hurt you?

I've been there. Max was my best friend, at times my only friend, and he got me through many tough times. I miss him every day.

In group, we will explore that powerless feeling and develop strategies to cope with it. Click on this post and comment below or contact me if you'd like to be part of our groups. As always, it will be my honor to support you.

Exciting News

Sorry I haven't written in a while. I've been busy.

To paraphrase Bill and Ted, strange things are afoot here at Porche Charities. While we lost most of our funding and some major support, we also have gained. No one said that creating a non-profit would be easy and they were right! The lessons learned have been invaluable and we need your support more now than ever.

We would also like to welcome Ray Zambo to Porche Charities. Ray, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will be providing supervision services to our therapy clinicians in training. In his spare time, he is a talented painter whose work has been exhibited at the Paralyzed Veterans of America Reflections show among other places. More on his work as an artist can be found here: We are really excited to welcome him aboard and look forward to working together.

The It Leash

Since my last posts were kind of heavy, I thought this one should be fun.

I found something I love. It's an LED dog leash that is rechargeable using a USB:

You can also get the matching collar. Just attach a poop bag dispenser and you're ready to walk with your friend, keeping him or her safe.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite animal related accessory? Have you found something that solves a problem? Click on the title and post your thoughts or ideas.

Happy International Kissing Day!

I'm so excited. Today is International Kissing Day:

I don't really need an excuse to pucker up, since I'm married to the greatest guy on earth. But I have to admit that I miss my dog's kisses. Max wasn't a prolific kisser but when he did lick me, it was memorable and very comforting.

What did your animal do to comfort you whenever you were sad or upset? As always, I'd be interested in your thoughts. So click on the title of this blog and share away. We will also talk about this in group and it will be my honor to support you,

Important Safeguards

Dan likes to read instructions, open boxes and set things up. This is great for me because I don't. One of the reasons for my dislike of these activities is the often disturbing messages about people with disabilities found in safety warnings.

I recently bought a coffee pot. Where and from which company is unimportant because I have found that many companies have a paternalistic attitude toward us, so to point fingers seems to me to be a useless exercise. Here is the text of the very first safety warning (verbatim):

"The appliance is not intended for use by persons (including children) with reduced physical, sensory or mental capacities, or lack of experience or knowledge, unless they have been given supervision or instructions concerning use of the appliance by a person responsible for their safety."

I do realize that there is a certain amount of butt covering going on here, especially in this litigious environment. But is it really necessary to totally ignore the role of personal responsibility and good judgement? Don't get me started on putting us in the same category as children.

What does all of this have to do with animal loss? I realized something that Max did for me while he was alive and now that he's gone, I have to find a way to do for myself. Max saw me as whole, despite my 'reduced physical abilities'. He not only depended on me for food, water and care, I taught him how to help me. That gave me great confidence and allowed me to see myself as able to contribute something important in my world.

This view of me is also in stark contrast to how many others perceive me.

Helping you rediscover your own wholeness, in the absence of your friend, is one of our group purposes and it will be my pleasure to support you.

What do you think? I'd be interested to hear from you.

Euthanasia, the hardest decision...

I can only speak for myself. Choosing when Max died was difficult for me. Sure, the vet told me that his lung cancer would be the end of him in a matter of days, but exactly when that would be was up to me. Huge responsibility, at least I thought so.

Fast forward about three years. I still think about it and wonder if I did the right thing or if he would have been better off ending his days naturally. 

I don't have an answer, at least not one that applies to every situation. Some days I feel one way, some days another. That's the point though. I did the best I could in an impossible situation. And so will/did you.

We will cover this important topic in group and it will be my honor to support you.

What do you think? Are you or did you have a hard time with this issue? Click on the title and enter your comments.