30 March 2014

Now This is FREEDOM!

Recently freedom has become one of the most amazing words in the English language for us. When I saw the topic for the upcoming Fifteenth ADBC (Assistance Dog Blog Carnival) being hosted by Gentle Wit was *Freedom*, I knew I had to make the time in this new life of ours to participate.

If you had asked me 6-8 months ago to write on this topic, I probably would have written about the independence and safety I feel as I work with Thane and trust in his judgement around drivers whose minds are on everything, but the 2,000 plus pounds of steel they are steering into the crosswalk we are travelling across.

Today, though my definition of FREEDOM is very different.

For the past six months I have been embarking on a scary, albeit remarkably rewarding journey. Through a program centered in the science of neuroplasticity, I have left the life of isolation I lived for fifteen plus years behind me. It was not a CHOICE to live that way, but a necessity (or so it had always been thought). Brain damage to my limbic system had left me with profound Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Electro-Magnetic Frequency Sensitivity. Though I am still a work in progress, the changes in our life (not just related to MCS) have been dramatic to say the least. Living life without the limbic system locked in its flight/ fright response is truly incredible (and relaxing).

There have OBVIOUSLY been a lot of new experiences for the two of us.

When I trained Thane, it was in a very limited scope for public access with the rest being in home tasks for my multiple disability needs. When it came to public access, we essentially went grocery shopping, picked up meds at an outside pharmacy window, used transportation, and went to vets and doctors when required. The rest of our life has been spent mostly in the home environment or taking walks in areas where it was safe enough with my respiratory mask (which I could never go outside without leading to oxygen deprivation issues when I wore it very long).

In the past six months, I have not only been training my brain to rewire and thus correct the dysfunction, but I have also been dealing with whether these changes for me would mean it was time to part ways with Thane as my guide or whether fighting harder for his thyroid health would have any better results than they had for his predecessor and thus allow us to pursue this new life together (at least for a time). It does seem like the latter is coming to pass which is quite exciting!

Training Thane to handle new experiences almost as though he were a young pup being socialized to everything he might encounter as a trained service dog might seem odd to some given his age, but its wonderful to be taking this journey full circle with him. Through this we've discovered an older dog (7 years old) DEFINITELY can learn new tricks as we experience new joy in training and being in public places that we never could have been before.

As I continue to heal and rewire my brain, I find this intense joy in nature and outdoor opportunities. If it wasn't for my power wheelchair, I'd probably hit the trails, never looking back again. giggle I suspect this intense nature drive stems from how much time I've been required to stay indoors so isolated from opportunities.

As Thane continues to heal, I am finally experiencing the guide dog I had always dreamed of having at my side-- the dog I knew he could be and this is INCREDIBLE as it shows me that the new life I am embarking upon is going to be a new life with him showing me the way.

I have a long way to come socially, but today I find great pleasure and yes, freedom in the little things of life. 

The freedoms I am / will be able to experience now with Thane guiding my way through new terrain and opportunities is what it means to truly live freely to me. We are no longer merely existing through life each day, but experiencing life through a guide's eyes filled with curiosity and alerts that describe intricate details about this new exploration I am embarking upon.

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