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!) 


“Peace-In” at the Pacific!

18 04 2010

*NOTE:  Due to my hand mobility issues, I could not turn my hand to make the proper “PEACE-IN” sign.  I’m NOT making a gang signal.  It’s my happy way of being able to say, “PEACE-IN Everybody!”

In honor of my friend, Kristen, we're "Peace-In at the Beach."

Oh Boy!  Windsor and I had “Big Busy” this week!!!  Windsor saw the beautiful, salty-smelling Pacific Ocean for the first time!  For me, it was my second time in many years due to my brain injury to make the short, but difficult for me, car ride to the beach.  I also had breakfast at a popular restaurant – “buffet” style.  Eating/drinking involves great mental concentration for me.  Typically due to my brain injury, I eat by myself, away from people’s movements and speech.  Now throw in lots of people at a restaurant, noise, lights, figuring out how to move through the restaurant with my mobility struggles, how to make decisions (a toughie) in a buffet line, and more.  It’s alot for a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).  What joy I have from doing this though…another sign of continued healing.  I ate and drank around people, a “People Party!”  I’m brain fatigued now…hangin’ by myself, but it’s worth the time it takes to recuperate! 

Fascinated WatchingWindsor did great in the restaurant!  He opened the doors for me into the restroom, followed well in the buffet line, and with a few reminder “Leave it!” commands, he left the floor scraps alone.  Calmy and quietly, was how he laid under the table perfectly.  That’s pretty good for a 9 month old!  Did he carry my plate?  No, he’s not trained to do that, but he does carry bags for me.

Talking to/Concentrating on walking together

After finishing eating, I needed to leave the stimulation of the restaurant.  Being outside with my eye difficulties – the bright sun, sparkling water, people/dogs running, etc, is another brain workout.  Windsor and I continued practicing together.  It’s still difficult for him to follow my walking pace.  He did very well going slowly up/down the stairs at the beach.  I only fell twice on the stairs.  It will be easier for my balance when Windsor is old enough to be mobility harness trained.  At the bottom of the stairs…SAND!  He loved the “Substitute Snow” which he really “digged” in Kansas.  I took a break and he dug his way to China while providing laughter for many watching his escapade, or should I say, “Sand-scapade!?!”