Just Me And Adele | My Service Dog Rescues Me Everyday - Arthritis Research | Arthritis National Research Foundation
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Just Me And Adele | My Service Dog Rescues Me Everyday

Service Dog | Adele and Kara

Just Me And Adele | My Service Dog Rescues Me Everyday

One of the best feelings in the world is the warmness you feel when a dog curls up next to you on the couch and lays her head and legs on your lap. Some might see this as a means of affection, but to me, it is more than that. It’s fondness, compassion, willingness to obey, and feelings of concern.

When I give my service dog Adele a command and she responds correctly, she is simply doing her job, but for me she is so much more than just a service dog. Adele is trained to be a canine companion for independence and she was trained to specifically meet the needs of a person with a disability, like me.

Now, if you pass me on the street you probably wouldn’t think that I have a disability. That’s because my disability is very much invisible and unless you know what to look for: the occasional limp, swollen fingers, and a ponytail that isn’t quite even, you would think I look “normal”. Most of the time when I’m walking with Adele, I even get asked if I’m training her, but that’s not the case, she’s amazing and often training me.

Service Dog
 

My Journey To A Service Dog

 
It all started last year when I attended the Juvenile Arthritis Conference. I won a scholarship to attend a conference where I got to meet kids, teenagers, and young adults just like myself. When you’re diagnosed at six years old, you don’t often meet others like you. I noticed a lot of people in attendance had service dogs and it sparked my interest.

When I got home I began researching different service dog agencies and discovered what I felt was the perfect one, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). CCI is an amazing organization that has changed my life in ways I could not have imagined. Now, other than the obvious addition of Adele, they gave a 20-something doctoral student a feeling she had rarely felt: security. After numerous rounds of interviews, a two-week training, and two tests, Adele became my service dog companion.
 

Adele, My Amazing Service Dog

 
Adele is trained in over 40 commands. She can pick things up off the ground for me, turn lights off and on, and take the socks off my feet. Now, if you know what it’s like to wake up and not be able to reach your feet, this is a godsend.

On days when I’m flaring and can’t get off the couch, Adele can bring me a water from the refrigerator. While all of her skills are amazing, the commands aren’t even the best part. People ask me all the time why someone like me needs a service dog and my answer always seems to surprise them. It’s not that she can physically do things for me, but that she mentally and emotionally helps me through the day.

For anyone who has experienced arthritis symptoms, the most frustrating part is that you don’t know when you’re going to get sick. Don’t get me wrong, there are triggers and little signs you are about to flare, but it’s still very unpredictable. The security of having someone there, especially for someone who lives alone, makes life easier.

My family feels the same way, they are more relaxed knowing that I have Adele there with me when I get sick. Having that security reduces my stress and for me, when stress levels are lower, the likelihood that I will flare seems to decrease. I can honestly say that in the last year that I have had Adele, I can count the number of times (on one hand) that I have flared. If you would have told the 15-year-old me sitting in the hospital bed this, I would have laughed you out of the room.

My Service Dog Adele
 

The Impact of My Service Dog

 
Not only has Adele impacted my life, but everyone who I come into contact with now gains knowledge and a new perspective after meeting her. I’m now getting my doctorate in counseling and school psychology where Adele attends every class with me. You can ask anyone in the room and they will tell you that their mood changes when they see her. We walk down the hall and people smile as we go by.

Adele’s presence has opened the door to many meaningful conversations, giving me the opportunity to educate others on the use of service dogs, how they help people, and the laws protecting service dog users. While not all of my interactions are positive, I can speak from a year’s worth of experience and find that it’s still a learning process, both for myself and others. We’ve had so many experiences that I keep telling myself I’m going to write a book one day about all of the conversations I’ve had with people.
 

Interacting with Service Dogs

 
I’d like to share some of the education I’ve shared in these interactions. If you see a service dog out and about with their human, it’s extremely important that you just ignore them. I know that it’s exceptionally hard, but if you look, make noises, or talk to the dog, it can distract it from paying attention to it’s human. I know when I’ve been out with Adele, someone will tell her how pretty she is (she loves hearing that, as she’s very much a diva) but Adele might turn and look at the person. This could get her in to trouble because I might need her to follow through on a command. She’s trained to listen, but it’s hard to ignore a compliment, so it’s just best to look from a distance. If you do want to know more, then please ask first. I very much love to be asked questions about Adele because it gives me the chance to tell our story and educate others.

Today, it’s very difficult to imagine life before Adele. All I can think about it is how grateful I am that this ball of fur has repositioned herself to lay against me while she snores and dreams of playing fetch. In the 20 years that I’ve had Rheumatoid Arthritis, I’ve never been as “healthy” as I have been this past year. Whether that’s Adele’s doing or not, I choose to believe it’s because I have the unconditional love and help from her (mixed with my medication, of course)! I hope to have many more adventures with Adele in the future and if you’re interested in learning more about Adele or CCI, feel free to ask!

You can keep up with Kara and Adele by following Kara on instagram @karadingess or leave her your comments/questions below!

Kara Dingess
Article Author
Kara Dingess
karadingess@gmail.com

Kara Dingess is a JRA advocate, passionately raising awareness for individuals with disabilities and individuals with service dogs. When she isn’t spending her time as a doctoral candidate in the Counseling and School Psychology program at FSU, Kara loves hanging out with her service dog Adele, watching the latest Netflix show, and dreaming of retiring at Walt Disney World. She writes her own blog, "Ribbons, Bows, and Hospital Bracelets” and hopes she can make a difference in the lives of others living with chronic illnesses.

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