My name is Greg and in 1999 at the age of 31, I broke my neck at the C4/C5 vertebrae. As a result I am a quadriplegic paralyzed from the chest down. Since 1999 I have been in the process of recovery. One of my first goals after leaving Shepherd Center ( http://www.shepherd.org/ ) a specialty spinal cord hospital in Atlanta, Georgia was to receive a service dog.
I had a Labrador retriever puppy named Buddy prior to my accident but was unable to keep him. I was fortunate to find out about Susquehanna service dogs in Harrisburg Pennsylvania ( http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php ) and quickly started the enrollment process. It wasn't long before I was traveling to Harrisburg to train with Nala; I needed to learn all of the correct commands and pass a public access test. Little did I know how much Nala really had to teach me.
I'm very fortunate to have family and friends that have helped me complete many goals along my journey, but there's something very special about the bond I have with Nala. She and I attended the University of Pittsburgh to receive a Masters of Science in rehabilitation counseling, it took five long years but we finally graduated. All through the rain and snow Nala never complained, if a professor was exceptionally long winded she would give out a loud groan that eventually would lead to a break. Many more individuals on campus knew Nala's name than knew my name.
It's hard to believe I have had Nala for seven years but I truly believe dogs are good for the soul. She continues to teach life lessons in a gentle, tail wagging, dog slobbering, black hair shedding disguise. I have to share what happened recently with Nala in the kitchen. I was having her close a drawer in the kitchen, and it had a box of 10 number two pencils; the box of pencils were keeping the drawer from shutting, so I had Nala take the box out of the drawer. Unfortunately the box was opened and all 10 pencils fell out onto the floor! She had the patience to pick up all 10 pencils and place them on my tray. I know service dogs do much more important task than picking up pencils, however I don't think I've ever been more proud of her. Nala never complains or looks at me like I am an idiot for dropping the pencils (cell phone, hat, toothbrush, fork, pen or practically everything I touch). I truly believe there's a lot to learn from a dog if we only take the time to listen. I'm curious to see where Nala and I end up on our next adventure now that graduation is over. Fortunately for me I have a very cute lab, she is always wagging her tail ready to meet the next adventure. Who knows there maybe treats involved.