HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAINT, FROM EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER LOVED YOU

My husband and I were greeted in the early morning light today as we’re greeted every morning: As soon as my guide dog, Saint, realized that we were not asleep [notice that I don’t say awake, just not asleep], up he hopped onto the bed, wiggling so hard that he almost fell off. This morning however, was different. The wiggles, the kisses and the pure joy and excitement at [for me, a NOT morning person] just another 6 AM was as it always is.

Except …

It is Saint’s third birthday! *Wags, wiggles, and woohoos all around*

We showered him with pets and kisses and cuddles [not unlike every morning] but we bounced out of bed faster than normal to give him his birthday present, which we’d hidden in his toy box ever since he picked it out himself at the pet store a few days ago.

And the incessant squeaking of the new, stuffy whale, was a welcome and joy-filled sound that echoed throughout the house … all day …

And all throughout the day, I’ve been reflecting on the gift that Saint is to me. But as with all blessings so big, I don’t believe I’ll be able to fully appreciate it as much as I ought; the gift that he is in my life is simply too great. But I will always try.

But more than a simple “Saint is wonderful” post, I want to acknowledge and thank the people that made it possible for me to celebrate these milestones with my happy boy.


I received a touching email this evening from one of Saint’s puppy raisers, wishing him a happy third birthday, and it filled me with such a thankfulness, but also an unexpected bittersweetness that it’s hard to put into words. On the one hand, I’m incredibly grateful for these two women who, during their university years, dedicated months to raising a yellow lab puppy with boundless energy in the hopes that he’d one day be someone’s four-legged tool for independence, safety, and freedom. And I’m beyond thankful that that someone is me.

But on the other hand, I can’t imagine the mix of emotions puppy raisers must experience with each pup that enters their homes for a year, and then returns for training and eventually, to a forever home that is not the one who got them to that point. What kind of emotions swirl about in their hearts as they write an email to their baby boy’s new mom, knowing that it’s where he belongs and what he was meant for, all the while feeling the sadness of not having him close as they once did?

Guide dogs wouldn’t be possible without puppy raisers. My Saint wouldn’t be possible, wouldn’t be the wiggling, energetic, hard-working, blessing that he is, without his puppy raisers. He wouldn’t even be in my life without them, and so many more people that I can’t begin to list them here.

So, even though Saint jumps up on my bed, guides me to all the local coffee shops, keeps me safe in the world and gives me the unconditional love that only a dog can, he is not just mine. He is forever in the hearts of his puppy raisers. He is always in the memories of his trainers, the volunteers, and all those who have loved him, taken care of him, and prepared him for his life as a guide dog. He will always be a part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind family.

I may be his handler and forever mom, but I am the last in a long line to love him. And he wouldn’t be here without all those who came before me. So while Saint is the best boy ever [and I could write that post if you need], this is one moment that I want to say thank you to everyone who brought him here to me.

And there is no way I can say thank you enough.

If you’d like to donate or volunteer with GDB and make a difference in the lives of people with sight loss, as well as life-changing dogs like Saint, please check out GDB’s website to find out more.

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART FOUR: YOU SAY ENTITLED, I SAY EQUALITY

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP before continuing.

”Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thessalonians 5:18

Corrie Ten Boom, and her sister, Betsie, put this verse into practice in the very direst of circumstances—while in a Nazi-controlled concentration camp in World War II. Read her story in her book, The Hiding Place, or listen as a dramatized radio drama by Focus On The Family.

How terrible it would be to find even one thing to be thankful for in a concentration camp! I’m continually encouraged by Corrie and Betsie’s attitude of thankfulness and I try (and often fail) to adopt it for myself.

On the inaugural day of a week-long girls getaway, it became my mantra as everything seemed to be going wrong. From twisting my ankle, taking transit in the rain for seven hours with multiple missed or late buses, losing my credit card, winding up in emergency for my foot, and getting excruciating menstrual cramps, I repeated “give thanks in all circumstances” through the day. And though it didn’t change my circumstances, it changed my attitude.

Thankfulness can be a tricky concept. Many a disabled person can regale you with experiences where, when trying to explain the challenges they face living with disabilities, they are told to “just be thankful.” That same sentiment echoes in my brain when considering the system that both gives financial support for disabled people in British Columbia, and also takes it away, which, in doing so, puts the disabled person in financial stress. Ironic, isn’t it

But there’s one glaring problem with this response, and it’s this, that in telling a disabled person to be thankful for what they have, you imply that they are entitled if they ask for more.

If we are less than enthusiastic about the amount of income we receive from the Ministry, and even insinuate that the amount should be higher, we are perceived as entitled. If we want more, then we’re dissatisfied with what we have, and maybe even greedy. We expect too much, and think that we’re more deserving than we really are.

But hear me, oh please hear me now: This is not an issue of entitlement, but an issue of equality.

As a disabled person, I’m not being entitled to expect equitable treatment and support.

It is not entitlement to want enough money to supplement my husband’s income that allows us to sufficiently cover our living expenses.

Disabled people are not being given special treatment if they receive disability income support.

And there is one more misconception I’d like to clear up: Disability support is not a handout. It isn’t money given at will so that disabled people don’t have to work. It’s compensation to help sustain us month to month as we search for employment in a society in which it is very challenging for disabled people to obtain. We are not greedy, or lazy, and I’d wager that each individual receiving it would choose not to be reliant on it if they had a choice.

But the fact does remain that many people are in need of it for any number of reasons. And they should never feel shame or embarrassment at being in receipt of this support. It’s been my lifeline for years now, and I don’t know how my life would have unfolded without it.

But should disabled people be thankful for this sum of money that is, at times, laughable, because how does the government deem $375 enough to cover shelter costs for a single person?

Yes. We should be thankful that the Canadian government does provide a system for supporting its disabled citizens. The support we receive keeps many disabled people afloat, and acts as their only source of income. There are places and systems that don’t give, but take from its citizens. So yes, I am very thankful to live in a country that provides for people like me.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize or speak out about its flaws or discriminations. If we keep quiet, nothing will change. And striving towards a positive change is what this series, and this blog, seek to do with each word written. Of course it’s uncomfortable and even hurtful at times, but that is because I’m addressing issues in a flawed world. But nothing will change if we don’t raise our voices.

And this blog is my voice. I hope that through this mini-series, you’ve been able to hear me, and hear not only the words I’ve said but the person behind those words. Because I am not the only one whose reality I have just stripped bare. This is life for many, many Canadians, and though every situation is individual, there is one commonality that binds us: Every disabled person deserves equality.

And my hope is that through more and more disabled people speaking up, we will grow ever closer to achieving it.