The Miracle of My Special Buddy

4 05 2010

Windsor B. & Me (Click to enlarge.)

Sir Windsor B. Derby, A.K.A. “Windsor B.” for “Windsor Buddy,” has been with me for six weeks.  I’m frequently asked, “How’s Windsor doing?”  I’m not sure if he’s my sidekick or I’m his, but he’s pretty special!  I’d like to share some of our special moments, the miracles I see with him being in my life!   

Windsor, Heather, and I met and started to train together on a Friday.  Windsor cried on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when the trainer, Heather, left the home.  None of us were surprised knowing he’d experience mourning.  His whole life was changing and we were prepared to love him through it.  However, on Monday, the day Heather had to return to Kansas, we were NOT prepared for Windsor’s reaction.  (Yes, the training was fast.  However, I have past experience with dogs, my horse therapy provided recall/learning experience, Heather trained me – via phone, pictures, & videos, I watched videos/researched via the wonderful asset of the internet for over a year, and I will continue to train with a SD trainer here.)

On Monday, prior to Heather leaving, we trained at a local store.  With Windsor at my side, we all walked outside to hug and say our “goodbyes.”  Windsor watched Heather walk away and get into her vehicle.  Once she was out of view, he turned around with an “I’m ready” attitude.  It was a shocking moment!  His turn towards me held so much communication.  He picked up his “mantle” – “I’m Sir Windsor B. Derby!  I’m yours now.  I understand this is what I’ve been training to do.  I’m your service dog and I’m here to help you.”  There was no more mourning, no crying.  From that moment, he has been glued to me, alert to helping, working to understand my language, giving love, providing laughter, and wanting to help in any way possible.

Sir Windsor Provides Mobility & Medical Alert Assistance

Medical Alert Assistance:  Our third week together, I realized “The Windsor Look.”  “The Windsor Look” is a medical alert.  It’s a very serious, deep, and mature look on his face just prior to an episode starting.  “The Windsor Look” allows me to prepare and be aware.  I do not have seizures.  I have episodes.  My body shakes hard like a seizure.  I’m alert to my surroundings, but am unresponsive, uncommunicative.  There is no physical evidence to having a seizure.  Some episodes are long and strong, causing me to feel dazed and lethargic.  Others are mild and short, and once completed I’m able to carry on with my activity.  Episodes occur intermittently everyday.  Many service dogs receive specialized training to provide medical alert assistance.  Windsor, amazingly, is doing many of the skills due to his inner instincts.  Although he has not begun this specialized training, he already alerts me.  Without directive, he even stops playing with his toys – and he LOVES those!  He waits quietly, calmly at my feet or lies next to me on the bed for hours and hours, refusing to leave me, and refusing to eat.  He also provides pressure, a “grounding technique” many medical alert dogs are trained to do – again a specialty not yet trained to do.  It’s a miracle…

Mobility and Medical Alert Assistance:  In our fourth week together, we went to Trader Joe’s, a specialty food store which is a  love of mine, but is highly brain-stimulating.  Due to my brain issues, I’ve only been four times since 2005.  While pushing the cart, Windsor is to walk along the side of me.  He suddenly cut across the front of me, making his body parallel to the cart’s handle, blocking me from moving forward.  Obviously, I was forced to stop with a 75 lb. pup blocking me – “The Windsor Block.”  Within a brief moment, I fell.  Falling is a typical occurence for me due to my brain injury.  Windsor then proceeded to follow his mobility training by going “Down,” waiting for me to “Brace” on him, and “Stand(ing)” as I regained my balance.  I thought, “Hmmm…did he know I was going to fall?  Was he trying to alert me?”  It didn’t take long to know that the answer was, “YES!”  as I fell four more times in the store.  Prior to each fall he body-blocked me.  Again this is a technique service dogs are specially trained to do.  Windsor has not yet received this training, but was being planned in the future.  It is amazing that he’s already doing this…now if only his handler (that’s ME!) would LISTEN to him and stop trying to make him go back to my left or right.  Within the service dog world, it’s called “Intelligent Disobedience.”  (Ex:  A guide dog is given the command to go “Left,” but ignores it and goes “Right” because he sees danger.  The handler must respect the dog’s “Intelligent Disobedience.”)  I must respect his “Intelligent Disobedience,” his communicating to me, his ignoring my command.  He can decipher a chemical that is alerting him to my falling.  He’s doing what is right by blocking me, so that I’m aware and don’t get hurt. 

The bowling picture above and the video below was taken on our first Monday, about 20 minutes after Heather left.  You can witness Windsor B.’s attentive nature to me.  Windsor does quickly assist me when I fall, even without a spoken command, but at bowling I didn’t want his help.  Bowling is a favorite pastime and a physical/brain therapy for me – coordinating eye/hand/arm movements, working with noise distractions – from music, bowling balls, pins, people.  It’s shows some of my ongoing progress with noises, my eyes, physical movements, and at interacting with people while focusing on an activity.  By the way, I’ve only gotten a few SPARES in 9 months!…and Windsor had just turned 9 months when we met.  So, I think a SPARE is a great way to celebrate!!!  (I got a STRIKE that day too – my 2nd in 9 months!) 


A Gift Well Worth the Wait…

6 04 2010

After waiting over a year for a service dog, here are pictures of us meeting and video training clips worth a 1,000 words…

My thanks to EVERYONE who helped to make this dream come true – praying, donating financially, sending notes/emails/Facebook!

Windsor is 9 months old and will receive more training for mobility assistance.  For now, the goal is to become acquainted as a service dog (SD) team with basics and for him to learn my pace, abilities, etc. 

Some of Windsor’s Work:  Windsor enjoys tugging open/closing doors, picking up what I drop in the house/public, “PROUDLY” carrying items for me, going slowly up/down stairs as I work to stabilize, and laying at my feet as I work on the computer…OOPS!  Correction-ON my feet slobbering!  When he puts on his vest to go out in public, he’s all business!  It’s time to work!

Some of Windsor’s Play:  When he is “Released” from work, he becomes part “Marley.”  Windsor enjoys romping in the grass and chewing up branches (Anyone need help cutting down a tree?  He’ll gnaw it down!).  He’s clearing out the long-hated, ant-carrying ivy in my parents’ lawn…a cheap gardener.  He also loves raw bones (Yucky!), tearing up stuffed animals (They should be headless.), sleeping on MY pillows (Get off!), and like all retrievers, carrying a ball in his mouth while “telling you about his proud catch.”  He’s a talker – sounds like a happy “look at me” growl. 

He’s a love, follows me everywhere, has claimed me with the full understanding that I’m the one to help, and does his best to help.  Anyone around me can already see that he is igniting pathways in my brain to recall/activate, and this brings healing.  He helps to “clear the moss” off my unused brain paths.  Over the next year we will both “season” together…much to be thankful for and to keep striving ahead for more healing.

Put On Your Dancing Shoes!

20 02 2010

All are invited…

Saturday, March 20

to a Benefit/Charity Dance to raise funds to bring Windsor and me together as a Service Dog Team.  






When:  Saturday, March 20, 7:00pm to 11:00pm
Location:  Avant Garde Dance Studio #2
                      4220 Scott Drive
                      Newport Beach, CA 92660
Directions:  View map at
Phone:  949-651-0630
Hosts:  Kathy Mardaresco & Mare Stephens

Advance Registration $25.00 by March 15th or $30.00 at the door includes:

Open Dancing – availabe to anyone regardless of dance experience
Buffet dinner/soft drinks
(2) Entries for Jack and Jill Contest
Opportunity to show off your routine (limted time/space)
Ribbons/certificates for performances
Present and past dance instructors will be judging!

Silent Auction to include such items as:

dance lessons
gift certificates
basket of wine
day spa
and many more items

For advance registration, please notify marerecycler@gmail.comAlso, please be sure to register for your routine by emailing  

If you cannot make the event, but would like to make a donation, please send all proceeds to PayPal (Click on “Donations” above.) or send a check made payable to Christy Miller at:
Hope for Christy
PO Box 1358
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Invite your friends and have some fun!  Before my TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, I used to dance and I still love it in my heart.  I will be there in spirit!

Donation Update:  Windsor’s total cost is $7,000 for his purchase, training, service dog equipment, and medical.  As of February 14, about $5,000 has been donated.  Windsor is a mobility assistance dog who will help me open doors, retrieve dropped items, provide balance assistance, alert people in public that I’m a slower, disabled person, and much more.  Windsor arrives at the end of March.  Yippee!

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