Big Bunches of Thanks…Update 11/29/09

29 11 2009
It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving and in the past week, I’m definitely headed back in the direction of healing. Although my speech and people interaction is very limited, I still have much, much, much for which to rejoice! My ability to venture out into the community began to kick in again. Yeah! On Monday, with a caregiver, I walked to the grocery store and bought one head of lettuce and figured out how to pay in cash – a slow processing, but successful moment! Tuesday, Mom and I studied and played with a few dog toys, figured out what my hand coordination could do, and I selected two “Windsor” toys. Making selections is a difficult, tiring, and often painful task for me, but with the success it gives me the “Happy Brain Dance!” On Wednesday, after being virtually unable to since September, I made it back “to work” for my horse rehabilitation therapy. It felt so good! – no speaking abilities, but I walked, played, and groomed them quietly! They can hear me! I have definitely enjoyed the weekend working quietly on new tasks – hand writing three notes, making Windsor’s door tugs, and “TALKING” through typing. It’s like my brain is a “fireball” finding words and holding them long enough to type! This is often what happens when new abilities kick in. It’s full speed ahead for awhile and then it may stop for a time to focus on a different task to relearn or learn.

Angie (my horse trainer), MooMoo, Christy

 Some of you have written questions about my horse rehabilitation therapy and I’ll be happy to share the joy and details in the future.  Here is one recent happy moment including some background information.  Angie, my horse trainer, has a background as a workout jockey at Santa Anita Racetrack and she worked with the William Shatner Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles.  Imperor Too, “Imp,” is an Arabian horse, white in color (Angie, I know the proper term for his coloring is “flea speckled gray,” but that’s kind of icky!), and is almost 27 years old.  After having been a parade horse and a long distance runner, Imp is now retired.  Back “in the day,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, the present governor of California, tried to buy him from Angie after a parade.  No way!  Imp is hers since he was a yearling, a baby.  When I began therapy, I did not work with Imp.  In about my second month of therapy, I overheard Angie discussing her horse with a brain disease that causes seizures.  I digest new information slowly, and was unable to communicate my desire to meet this horse.  At this point in my healing, I was barely, barely speaking.  I would lay awake for hours, frequently all night, practicing a few words, or one sentence.  All week I mentally practiced, “Could I please meet your horse with a brain disease?”  I felt so drawn to him.  I just had to meet him.
The next week I got my sentence out. I spoke! Angie was happy to introduce me to Imp, but she cautioned me about his lethargy and unresponsiveness to people. To the lethargy – I’ve been there, still get it and to the unresponsiveness – I get it, still have it! Not wanting to over stimulate him, I was allowed into the stall and just went to touch him. My voice couldn’t speak to him, but as I’ve learned over the years, my mind still has silent, mental conversations. I hugged him. I loved him. I spoke to him without words. He understood. Over the past year, Imp and I have an unexplainable relationship. I love all of the horses, but there is something special that he and I give each other. 

Horse Costumes Fashioned by Christy (From left to right: Tank, Christy, Imp, Eagle, Angie, and MooMoo)


Due to my September setback, I missed weeks and weeks of my horse rehab therapy. I just made it back! The first day I just went to give and get lovin’. When I got out of the car, my feet, in my “funny coordinated run,” took off to the stalls. I bypassed the other 21 horses I greet on the way and made a beeline for Imp’s stall. I didn’t have speech and couldn’t call out to him, but Imp saw me and let out the longest, loudest, most boisterous screaming neigh I’ve ever heard from him. My words exactly buddy! I just hung on him and hugged him! True to himself, he gave me lots of nose nuzzles and head rubs up my back and tummy, signs of affection. I so missed him and I’m happy to say he missed me too! People don’t always greet each other in such a loud and effervescent manner, but love expressed through people’s words or actions, or love freely given by animals, is a heart warming moment in my book!

Speaking of hearts, Heather, Windsor’s trainer said, “He melts the hearts of all who meet him.” And, boy, is his heart getting big! Just prior to five months old, he weighed 50 lbs.! That’s large for his age, but as a mobility service dog, he needs to be big and strong for the times I “Brace” on him when I lose my balance or am getting up from having fallen to the ground. Keep growing little guy! Notice in the pics, he’s not all work and no play. Have you ever seen the “Easter Bunny Dog” before? In the pics where he is in a restaurant, notice his calm public etiquette, a service dog requirement – seen but not heard (no barking, no frolicking, no sniffing or eating food from the floor/ground). Also in the pics are Windsor’s doors for training. “Up!” “Push!” He and I, as a team, will open doors that are difficult for me in public. Right now, he is too young, so Heather is “the muscle” and Windsor goes through the motions.

Special thanks too…
  •  Heather, Jeremy, and the kids – Ben (a new teenager!), Allie, Amy and Willie for raising, training, and loving Windsor.
  • Windsor’s “neighbors” for being his distractions and to the people/city of Spring Hill, Kansas for being his training ground.
  • The gentleman who offered to pay Heather’s flight from Kansas to California (and back!) with Windsor.
Update: As of December 7, 2009, $1,300 has been donated towards Windsor’s total cost of $7,000.  (Windsor arrives in March.)  I am so grateful for every precious donation.  All of the encouraging notes and acts of kindness keep sending me to my knees, to the ground – literally. These surprises of joy give me a little brain blip and I fall to the ground. There have been so many happy surprises this week, I’m thinking of staying on the ground! Thank you everyone!

Enjoy the latest pictures of Windsor. (Click on picture to enlarge it.)

Heather and I are training at the mall.

Run, Windsor, run! It's time to play, not work.

I'm "Sir Windsor" practicing good table manners - no sniffing, barking, frolicking or eating.

Chase a bunny? I am a bunny!

Table for two, please. I must be calm and focused on my work in public.

Advanced off-leash training




A Time for Patience…Update 11/15/09

15 11 2009

At the end of September 2009, I experienced a surprising setback, surprising because I had progressed for such a long period of months. My activities had expanded both in the home and out in the community. The setback was greatly disappointing, but setbacks do occur in the healing process. Right now I am living primarily in isolation again, needing much peace and quiet, and must wait patiently for improvement. Stimulation must be kept very low. However, I was able to help write this update, a sign of improvement already. Right now, I am struggling more with speech, mobility, stimulation around people/television/noises, being in a car, etc. I have been unable to get to my horse therapy, a great need for me. I know that when I begin to make better “head-way” (literallyJ), then I’ll be able to return to my activities. For now the famous virtue “patience” must be practiced!

Windsor Update – November 2009

Windsor is hard at work at almost five months old. He is doing well in public restaurants, stores, and working hard on tasks that will help me. Even as a puppy, he is very intuitive and helpful when there is an ill person around him – a necessity for a service dog. Windsor’s trainer, Heather, believes he is the fastest learning and best dog she has trained. Heather has no doubts he will complete the service dog training successfully. Heather says, “Windsor melts the hearts of all who meet him.” Maybe I am biased??? But, I love Windsor a lot from afar. Here are a few pictures of him retrieving keys, carrying a medicine bottle, getting his leash (and service dog vest), which is “Getting dressed,” opening/closing the door, and playing at the lake.

Donations are greatly appreciated as I am making monthly payments for Windsor.  Please go to DONATIONS for more information.

Enjoy looking and laughing at the growing boy, Windsor. (Click on a picture to enlarge it.)

I'm pointing, like all good retrievers can do!

I can open the door all by myself, go outside, and get the mail!

Retrieving meds is an important service dog skill.

Mom, may I borrow the car? Actually, I will help Christy retrieve items she drops and can't pick up.

Here's my leash. Let's go! I get my leash and vest to go out in public. I listen for the command "Get dressed."

I can close doors too!

Rhea Malloch (14:46:15) : Hi Christy,
It has only been a short time since you inquired for Windsor. I remember thinking how can I possibly send a pup that will help this young woman. Yet at 8 weeks old we picked out Windsor with the help of Heather the trainer and God’s hand guiding us. During this time I met your wonderful family and realized how truly amazing you are. You show bravery and courage in the face of disaster and remain optomistic and show true concern for others. God has truly touched your life and works through you to touch others. Our prayers are always with you. Windsor was a blessing sent from God and I know he will take you through the challenges you are yet to face. I can’t wait to see what comes next for you because I know it will be special.
Rhea Malloch JRS GOLDENS
Linda Harrison (03:41:43) : Dear Christy, I am a friend of your parents, esp. your dad whom I knew when I was in college group at 4th Pres. I have been praying for you and following your progress these last few years and am glad to see how God is answering prayers. I understand how frustrating it must be to suffer a setback but God will continue to heal in His time. Windsor looks like he will be a real blessing. May God continue to heal you.
Peace, Linda Harrison
Sandy Ditewig (20:00:56) : Dear Christy,
My husband, Bill, and I are also friends of your dad, and have prayed for you over the years as he has shared with us. What a joy to read in your own words on a computer (WOW!) of your continuing journey with all of the long periods of struggle and also the joys of progress. May the depth of your faith and trust God has been growing in your heart give you great hope and patience during this latest delay.
You have touched me because I have a special place in my heart for people with brain injuries. When I was an occupational therapy assistant student doing fieldwork with people with TBI, they taught me SO much! I’ve always been a dog person and have a trained therapy dog, Barnabas, a Shih Tzu. Right now, he’s just therapeutic for me and not out “working”. I am delighted to hear about Windsor and pray for both of you as you go through your training long distance and once he arrives. He looks like he’ll be a very special friend, “butler”, and all around assistant for you!
I’ve been meditating recently on Romans 8:22-25 in The Message. It concludes with these words: ” But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” As I read your story, it sounds like you have been “enlarged in the waiting” and are already sharing the blessing of what God is doing within you with others.
With love and prayers,
Sandy DitewigReply
Georgia Swanson (19:35:44) : Dear Christy,
I’m sorry to read of your setback. I do elder care for my parents. It seems that good times and bad times occur regularly. Keep up that courageous attitude. Keep up that FAITH to work for the return of those better days. The puppy pictures are adorable. I’ll be watching for the updates and it will be exciting to learn when you get to have your Windsor by your side.
Love and prayers,