“Independence is such a powerful and important word, a word that is often taken for granted. After being born three months early, doctors always thought I had cerebral palsy but it wasn’t later on in life that I was eventually diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). SMA is a condition that causes me to continuously lose muscle strength over time. Throughout the years I went from walking with a walker to eventually having to use a wheelchair full-time, greatly reducing my independence and mobility.
As I was heading into my teenage years, like most teens, I wanted as much independence as I could possibly get. Flash forward to one day in the spring, I saw a story on the news that was airing a special called: Through a Dog’s Eyes. It was about the journey of service dogs in training and the people whose lives they change. After watching that I immediately looked over and told my mom that, that was what I wanted for myself.
From there the search began and we eventually found 4 Paws For Ability, an organization that works and trains service dogs for kids and veterans with all kinds of disabilities.
After filling out the application process and finding out I was approved to get a service dog from 4 Paws, I was so excited but I had no idea how much my service dog was going to help me until I got him.
After a little over a year on the waitlist, I finally got the email I was waiting for stating that I got my match! I was matched with a little yellow Labrador retriever named Chunky Monkey and our training class would start in February of 2011. The moment I saw Monkey for the first time, I knew he was the dog for me. Monkey and I connected right away and our connection grew stronger in the two weeks of training together.
After graduating from team training, I brought Monkey home. Monkey jumped right into his role and began helping me gain my independence back. Monkey was able to do countless things for me including helping me pick up items off of the floor, opening and closing doors, turning the lights on and off, taking my jacket off, and pulling me in my wheelchair.
Monkey not only helped with my independence, but he helped me gain confidence socially. Having Monkey by my side helped me meet new people since he was a big conversation starter.
In October of 2022, Monkey sadly passed away from cancer days before his 13th birthday after serving me for over 11 years. Losing Monkey was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through. When I lost him, I felt like I lost a part of me. I remember when the decision was made that I would be getting a service dog. I knew my life was going to change. What I wasn’t prepared for was this unbelievable bond, love, and friendship that we share. The day we met, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Monkey was not only my service dog, but my best friend.
I know I will never be able to replace Monkey, but I am so excited to share that I will be getting another 4 Paws service dog in the summer of 2023! As I wait to get my new service dog, I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful 11+ years Monkey and I spent together. 4 Paws for Ability truly gave me the gift of freedom, independence, and unconditional love with Monkey and I can’t thank them enough for matching me with the perfect service dog. So thank you to 4 Paws and thank you to Monkey for being my best friend and choosing me to be your person!”
-Megan, 4 Paws for Ability Service Dog Recipient
On June 8th, Megan met Grizzled and the two will graduate from service dog training, and Grizzled has already started his life-changing career!