Saving Each Other

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Alena Chesser

A Girl and Her Dog

The day I found Gwendolyn, I had an appointment scheduled to go pick out a lab puppy. First, I went to the feed store to get things I would need. Donna a friend that owns the store said “Hang out for a little. Metro animal shelter and some others will be here.” Of course I did, it was the pound I had to stay and at least look. The Metro truck pulled up and they went in to set up kennels for the dogs. Other people started showing up with animals or looking for animals, the little feed store was packed.

Then I spotted this tiny little runt, all of her sisters and brothers were much bigger than her, but she wasn’t worried about that because she was playing with them regardless of her size.    

I rolled my wheelchair over to talk to her, telling her she was super tough and super cute. She then started playing and barking at me, so I picked her up out of the pen and started loving on her and her on me. She washed my face with puppy kisses and the smell of puppy breath. I started to speak with the woman about the puppies and this is exactly how I knew she was coming home with me. Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, have a strip of hair down their back that stands up. If a puppy doesn’t develop a ridge the puppy is euthanized to keep the breed pure. Cinderella (Gwendolyn’s original name) was an irregular Ridgeback, she had no ridge but was still in her puppy coat so they weren’t sure what they would do until she got a little older. When I heard that she might be put down because of her hair there was no way they were going to get her out of my lap. At this point I had already made up my mind and sent the people a Facebook message saying I no longer needed a puppy. They really thought about not selling her, but I was just going to take her if there was no price. Having a hard time placing her she would have went with Louisville Metro without a home and/or euthanized.

I negotiated with the lady a bit and we got little Gwendolyn on discount, for only $60. My happy little discount dog.   Now, we had gotten home and that’s when the spoiling started. Her name was changed because I thought it fit her better, I mean who names a dog Cinderella? Gwendolyn is pretty and strong, that is who she is. Just fitting enough, it is Jerry’s mother's name who passed away years ago. Here at home she has brothers and sisters to play with. (Rocky (dog), Tiger (cat), Bobbie (cat), Pete (ferret), and Teddy (hamster), and Fear (snake)) Well she doesn’t really play with the hamster or snake but they have all met. Gwendolyn and Pete became fast friends, they are both super hyper, playful, and then fall over asleep and you can’t wake them up. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a big breed with little fear. The original breed called “Hottentots” and they are from South Africa, bred to take down Lions. The saying “Keeping the lion at bay” comes from the ability to case lions from villages. They are also very fast and need lots of attention. The average ridgeback can keep up with a horse in full run for 30 miles. You should see her run around the backyard; it’s fenced and about 2 archers. She runs laps around and around until the neighbor's dogs come out then she is giving them kisses and play through the fence.                

At 8 weeks old after a good check at the vet and her shots, she started training to be my new service dog. Sunbear my past fur baby passed away March 2016. I didn’t do well with losing him, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I even peed the bed as an adult the first night without him. He meant the world to me, but he was 16 and went into kidney failure. We tried everything but it was just his time to go. Jerry said that the vet put his ashes in a pretty little box, gave me a tuff of hair, and did a foot print for me. I have never seen any of it, I refuse to look at it. Sunbear is still in my heart and I will always have a piece of my heart for him. After 10 months it was time, I knew I was ready to find another dog to love and work with. Gwendolyn warms my heart and gives me energy, and when it’s time for a good nap we snuggle up and I pet her till I fall asleep. It’s very relaxing to have her with me.                 

Gwendolyn is currently in service dog training with the Canine Academy, and she is super smart! She is 14 weeks now and can already follow these commands: sit, up, lay, let go, put it down, and rings the bell when she needs to go outside. One thing that is really great is if I drop something she gives it back to me; the first time she did it on her own I dropped my banana and couldn’t reach it from my chair and she saw me looking at it and reached down, picked it up, and put it in my hand. Now if I drop anything even a dog bone she tries to hand it back to me, I have to tell her she can have it. She goes to doctor appointments with me staying by my feet and was at my last blood treatment. My mom was at my house recently and we were outside with Gwendolyn when my mom yelled for her to go inside but I was still sitting on the porch. Gwendolyn did not follow my mom into the house she came to me and sit next to my chair. (Told ya, she is smart) When in the car or on the bus she lays down and rides at my feet. When I am in my power chair at the house she will stand on my foot rest and jump into my lap, she likes going for a ride the only problem is she wants to drive. That would be a great service dog skill but I don’t know if the joystick could handle her.

You should see her toys they can hardly handle her but she loves anything that squeaks, so you can’t lose her in the house because you hear …. Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky, every day all day. She also likes to play ball and if you don’t have a ball don’t worry she will bring you random items such as: a ball of foil, a rock, an orange, anything that is kind of round and most of the time I don’t know where it comes from. Spoiled already she has more toys than most kids, gets yummy treats for doing good (banana, vanilla ice cream, and beef jerky), but she loves to take naps with me that is her favorite. Yesterday we took a nap and both my feet and hers were out of the bottom of the covers. Today during our nap she laid across my neck and chest, I couldn’t move but she kept me warm.

It’s so much fun to watch her grow. She has saved me as much as I saved her. With being so lovey, happy, cuddly, keeping me from being lonely, and helping me to relax; I can say I needed her. She is growing he adult coat and has 2 white spots just over her shoulder blades and it’s a perfect set of angel wings. They even feather out to her brindle coat. Amazing how things happen, she is my Angel Fur Baby and will be for whatever comes.


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