Animals

Written For Me

“Do you know what you need? You need a service dog.” 

That was how my husband proposed the idea after I began battling with severe vertigo and had passed out a few times. I had seen several doctors but we still didn’t have an explanation for the new bizarre symptoms that were honestly ruining my life. That wasn’t even my only health issue. I also had been spiking chronic low-grade fevers. I had issues with a butterfly rash across my face, joint pain, exhaustion, a stomach disorder, a kidney disease, blood pressure problems that I had never dealt with before, and ocular migraines where I would suddenly lose my vision.  

I couldn’t figure out how to handle everything or where to go next. My quality of life was greatly diminished and the issues with my body would easily wreck the kind of havoc that made every-day tasks nearly impossible… especially when things hit me at once. I could go a couple of weeks feeling amazing when out of left field I would be knocked on my behind for a month or two… or longer. I once lost my vision while I was in the middle of driving. I never saw the semi that was barreling down the highway towards my car. It happened so fast that Nikolai and I were almost taken out of this life for good. Something had to change. Anything! I was desperate.

Still… a service dog? Dogs like that are expensive right? Was I “sick enough” to have one? What did “sick enough” even mean? Was there a person behind the scenes who would qualify sick people for service dogs? What would people think of me for having to rely on a dog to make me a more functional person? The questions swirled around in my brain until it made me feel that much worse. I decided to do the only thing that make sense to me… I sat at a booth hunched over my keyboard inside our local coffee shop and I googled the heck out of it.

I learned that the only one who could approve my service dog request was my physician. I also came to the realization that people used service dogs to do all kinds of things, from helping with PTSD, to managing anxiety, and other health problems as well. Yet the biggest thing I discovered was that I was over qualified.

Incapable of preforming daily tasks due to a disability or illness?  

Check.  

Hospital visits that are frequent?  

Check.  

Official diagnoses on my medical records?  

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check! 

I read that owning and training your own dog with the help of a professional trainer was the fastest way to obtain such an animal. Otherwise, you might be sitting on a wait list for a couple of years or more. It takes a minimum of two years to train a service dog and you need to be committed to the endeavor or you both will fail. It’s one of the hardest (and most rewarding) things that you’ll ever do. Finding the right kind of dog would be a whole other mountain to hike. Temperament testing the dog’s personality for service dog traits and willingness to learn was just the beginning. Even that wouldn’t guarantee success. Dogs have a high rate of flunking out of service work.

Most people don’t have family who raise purebreds at their disposal. Most don’t have an army of people in their corner who have physically seen them suffer over the years either. I was blessed enough to have both. My grandparents had been raising Rough Coat Collies for well over fifty years. They came from a long line of calm, quiet, and gentle dogs. On top of that, my grandmother’s adopted daughter Isabell had worked for a neighbor who raised search and rescue German Shepherds, police dogs, and yes… even service dogs!

My mind was made up. I needed a service dog and with my doctor’s approval in hand… I knew exactly where to get one. I picked up my cellphone and called my grandmother. From that moment on, my life was forever changed by the most amazing dog my family and I have ever known. The events of her birth and that of her siblings are of such epic proportions that you almost had to be there to believe it.  

“I’m not positive, but in my gut, I think that Bambi is pregnant!” 

“How do you know Grandma?!” 

“Well, I don’t know for sure… but I feel it.” 

A week before easter my grandmother had felt that Bambi (Isabell’s German Shepherd) had been filling out her naturally lean frame. Bambi had connected multiple times with my grandfather’s dog Sampson, which was within itself rather miraculous. You see, Sampson was an old man for a purebred Collie. Even though my grandfather had passed away years earlier… Sampson (who was the last generations of purebred collies on my grandparent’s farm), was still very much alive.

We had wanted and loved these puppies before they were born. It was the end of an era for my grandparents but the beginning of an era for me because one of the babies was going to be my service dog. I spent many nights lying awake and praying for a pregnancy to take place. Begging God to provide the kind of dog who would help me become a more functional person for my family. It wasn’t a cure, but I needed to be more confident in my abilities to manage my household and health on my own while my husband was away for work.

The day before easter I was sprawled out in bed with my husband by my side and my 6-year-old son’s foot in my face. Nikolai had crawled into bed with us and spent the night kicking me in the head. It was a beautiful Saturday, there was a periwinkle hue over the mountain peaks and the fireball in the sky was just beginning to show off. It was going to be a lovely, relaxing weekend… until my phone rang.

“You’re aren’t going to believe this! You just aren’t going to believe it!” My grandmother’s voice was lively and animated. 

I yawned, stretched my legs out before me and mumbled sleepily “What time is it? Why are you up so early?”

“SHE DID IT! WE HAVE PUPPIES!” 

I flew to a fully awake sitting position among piles of blankets and maneuvered the limbs of my family away from me. “What do you mean? How?! Last week you weren’t even sure if she was pregnant and now, we have puppies? WE HAVE PUPPIES!” 

I squealed and my body shook with excitement “I HAVE A SERVICE DOG IN TRAINING!!” 

Had I stuck to the typical service dog rules… it may have made my life easier. Rules such as, “not choosing a puppy until you have them professionally evaluated first” are important to a higher success rate. My wonderful trainer lived in Georgia with me and these puppies were located in Arizona with my family. I decided to trust God and do my best to evaluate them myself through facetime. I don’t recommend doing what I did, but if I had done things any differently… than this would be a different story. Tallulah wasn’t the right dog but she was right for me.

Bambi had her babies in a field, choosing to hide them rather than be cozy and warm inside the house. My mom and my grandmother saw blood and found a hole that she dug to hide them in. The first two (and the oldest) puppies never made it into the foxhole. Their bodies were discovered lifeless several feet away. My mom ran her hands over them, rubbing the puppies with all her might. She breathed life into their mouths and gave them CPR to revive them.

One of the two puppies yelped and began rooting but struggled to latch or eat. The other laid limply underneath my mother’s hands. She called me with tears pouring down her face and I listened to her voice quiver as she whispered a prayer over the tiny animal’s body. Hours went by and she continued begging the fellow to live until his body became cold to the touch, stiff, and ridged. There were no more soft sounds from a beating heart. No shallow breaths being taken. He was gently set aside in the dumpster behind the house so that the other dogs couldn’t take him away before she had a chance to bury him. She devoted the rest of her time to encouraging the puppy who didn’t want to eat, to nurse.

Tallulah was found with one of her brothers in the hole her mom dug out of the earth to save them. The moment I saw her picture on my cellphone… I knew that she was mine. It was as if God took the extra time to write my name on her. She was the only puppy born with a large black letter “L” marking on her back… a characteristic trait that she eventually grew out of. Yet she had been written into existence especially for me. Her marking was a beacon of light within the whirlwind of darkness that my health had plunged me into once again.

After a long day, my exhausted mother had to dispose of the dirty towels and blankets from Bambi’s birthing room and move them into the dumpster. She had helped Bambi’s babies to nurse and even delivered a few more puppies along the way. The sky was fading from blue to silver and the stars were making a dashing appearance of their own. It was almost time to bury the body of the first born. The closer she got to the trash can the louder a scuffle from within became. Twelve or more hours had passed and there had been no sign of life or a will to live. Yet she lifted the lid and there he was! A living, breathing, wiggling miracle searching for his mother. That’s how “Lazarus” changed my mom’s life. A puppy that was completely dead came back to life with nothing more than faith and a prayer… the day before Easter.

My own prayed for puppy, has rescued my life countless times. She has warned me when it wasn’t safe for me to be driving. She has told me when my blood pressure became dangerously high. She helped chase an intruder out of my house and away from my son. She’s watched over my baby as if he were her own. I’ve seen her soothe Nikolai on sick days, and giggled to myself over the joy of her bubblegum pink tongue kissing away his sadness until laughter was all he had left. She has put herself between me and those she didn’t trust on multiple occasions and I’ve learned that she’s the best judge of character that I have ever meet.

There were moments within this amazing first year together when I thought that she wouldn’t make it as a service dog. We have been through trials that I never saw coming. Yet between my wonderful trainer’s advice (thank you Sharon!) and Tallulah’s desire to learn, my relationship with this incredible dog has only strengthened. She has saved me again and again. I owe her my life.

If you enjoyed this post about Tallulah, I have written other posts about her as well that you may want to check out! You can find those posts here, here, and here!

52 thoughts on “Written For Me”

  1. I love German Shepherds! I had one when I was a kid. The only dog I ever had that I feel like I had a bond with. I was mesmerized by him. He would howl at the moon. He would come check on me when I was in bed and sleep beside me. He would play with me. My dad ended up getting rid of him…. We got some Rottweilers and he clashed with them.

    It just so happens we’re going to get our puppy next week!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, what a miracle! I’m curious if your health issues have dramatically improved since you and Tallulah came into each other’s lives. This entire story was gripping and lovely.

    Lazarus—what a perfect name, given the circumstances. His story reminded me of something similar that happened with my buddy Bill. Like me, he is a huge dog lover and always has 2-4 dogs. One morning he woke to find that his dogs had gotten a possum. The possum was lying in his yard. He examined the body to see if it was alive. It appeared to be dead, and he picked its limp body up and placed it in his trash can.

    The next day he came out to throw a bag of trash into the receptacle, and the possum jumped out of the trash can when he lifted the lid. He described it as “giving him a heart attack.” The possum indeed was playing possum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s hysterical! I’ve had several instances with possums doing the exact same thing on the farm especially around the dogs. They play dead so as to avoid being eaten! It’s rather clever until you’re the person that goes out there trying to bury them LOL!! Nothing has changed physically with my health even after having Tallulah. The only thing that’s changed is my ability to handle it better. I once went to Walmart a town over and took her with me. I asked her to “load out” of the car and she outright refused, which was something she never does. She was clingy, nervous, and kept bumping me with her nose. I went to the blood pressure cuff and checked my BP- 175/146. It fully hit me as I was trying to make my way back to my car so I could get home. I left a cart of groceries sitting in an isle because I didn’t feel well enough to check out or load them into my car. Tallulah helped me walk back to my car. When I finally made it home… Tallulah laid with me and sometimes on top of me until I was feeling better again. As soon as I felt better, she asked to be let outside to play.
      Having her isn’t the cure, but having her has helped me manage how I respond to it. If I know I’m advance that I’m going to get sick, I can reschedule having to drive somewhere. She also Carrie’s my medicine for me, is learning scent training, and is capable of finding a person to come help me.
      Another time I got sick with my stomach disease and I didn’t see it coming. I had asked my husband to walk Tallulah for me and she refused to go with him. She was panicking trying to get to me and I didn’t understand why. 10 or so minutes later I was doubled over vomiting in the bathroom. I was hot all over and had to spend some time laying on the cold floor just to cool myself off because I thought I was going to pass out. Tallulah was practically breaking the door down to get to me. She can smell the changes in my body chemistry.
      Today even on my medicine my blood pressure is high and I’m having horrible vertigo. She’s been here in my bed with me all morning. 🥰

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      1. It’s remarkable how perceptive. Our yellow lab, Lulu, is not a support dog, but she has a special ability to size up people pretty quickly. She is super friendly to strangers, but if someone isn’t putting out the “I’m glad to see you vibe,” she stays away from them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tallulah is adorable. I’m glad you two stuck with it. I didn’t know that it takes two years to train a service dog which makes this story even more wonderful. I’m pleased that she is able to help you with your daily life. What a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a wonderful story, LaShelle! I was going to ask why you weren’t taking fabulous photos anymore, but then I read this and was like, well dang…taking photos is the least of her concerns! Thanks for sharing this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL! I haven’t been taking pictures because I don’t have Internet out here right now and it’s really hard to keep up right now 🤪. I’m not quitting I just have other things going on right now 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing adventure you and Tallulah have had! I remember being impressed by her in the story of the break-in, but I didn’t know the history behind your relationship and how important she is to you and your family. What a remarkable gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a sweet story, LaShalle! Dogs are such sweet and loyal creatures! They’re faithful to the end and they know when their humans are in distress. Tallulah sounds like a godsend and I wish her a long healthy life with you and your family! Sending you, your family, and critters lots of love! 💖🌺🌹

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  7. What a rollercoaster of a story that was. Tallulah looks so adorable, and she has such a companionable face too. And reading your comments about the times she’d saved you makes things even that more heartwarming. Such a lovely friend to have. You sure do know how to tug at my heartstrings. Anyway, hope you’re doing well, and will be waiting for your next blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. this is the sort of ‘article’ I would expect to come across in a magazine or weekend newspaper supplement. It is informative, warm and very well written. My friend and his wife train ‘service dogs’, labradors: I must ask him to tell me more now I’ve read this —

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that you feel that way! I have another called “unlikely friendship” that I think will have you rolling with laughter ☺️ if you read it let me know what you think of it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. okay; will see if I can find it; I have another one about Keith Urban that is very insistent that it go up tomorrow so watch for that 🙂

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      1. Have you considered breeding dogs (any breed) with all the land you have? You could make so much money and have dogs around all the time. I’d like to submit a request for you to breed Golden retreivers, Border collies or giant sheep dogs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha that’s too much right now with all that we have going on here. We just bought 6 1/2 more acres and have to build pastures for cows but cutting trees down. We’re also building a greenhouse and ponds soooo lots going on!

        Liked by 1 person

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