Most of us are pretty fortunate. We can take care of our personal needs quite nicely. We don’t think twice when we have to pick up a pen that we dropped, jump up to answer a ringing phone, or turn the lights off when we leave a room. That’s not true for everyone though.
In her book, A Dog Named Slugger , Leigh Brill writes about the struggles she deals with every day because of cerebral palsy. She starts out by telling how hard it could be for her just to stay on her feet. One of the falls she describes happened as she was walking across her college campus. She lost her footing, her books went flying, and she landed flat on her face. Rather than helping her up, a passing bike rider made a snarky comment and kept going, leaving her there on the ground.
Shortly after that incident a new doctor encouraged Leigh to admit her body was failing and start using a wheel chair. She refused to surrender though, and was determined to find a solution that would help her stay on her feet and keep her independence. Not long after, she met someone with an assistance dog. Leigh was amazed at how much the dog helped the woman and began to investigate the option for herself.
Leigh writes about her dog, Slugger, and how he changed her life. The two of them became a team and that allowed her to do things that she never imagined she’d be able to do on her own. And even though Slugger was a dog with a serious job, he still loved the things dogs love. He was big on a sock game he invented, and was in heaven when he found a smelly pile of cow manure to roll in. But for all of his playful antics, he knew when playtime was over and it was time to get to work.
Learning how to work with Slugger wasn’t all Leigh had to work on though. She writes about encounters she’s had with people who don’t understand or respect how important her dog is to her well-being. In fact, she fought a potential employer after she was told she could have the job, but only if she left Slugger at home. Leigh didn’t accept the job but because of her, the company was forced to change their policy regarding assistance dogs. It was a difficult time in her life, but she chose to be an advocate for other people who live with assistance dogs. Along the same lines, she routinely gives talks to school children to teach them how valuable these dogs can be. I’m certain her work will help further the acceptance of assistance dogs like Slugger.
There’s no way you can read this book and not fall in love with Slugger! You’ll also come to admire Leigh for her effort, determination, and willingness to look beyond herself and her situation so she can help others. And even if know how important assistance dogs can be, because of Leigh and Slugger’s story, I think you’ll come to appreciate them even more.