|In the car after her first alert! What a good Leni Bean!|
To say Leni has changed my life would be an understatement. You can read that throughout my blog. Because of her, I now get warning before my severe mast cell reactions. I can start treating 15-20 minutes before my symptoms start. This means that sometimes, I can keep my reaction at bay and only experience minimal symptoms. Other times, I will still end up in anaphylaxis...but the difference is that now I get WARNING. I am prepared in case things do get worse. I can make sure I am somewhere safe. I can call Nick or get someone to help me. I can't stop all my reactions, but I can at least have a heads up that it is coming. Leni has helped me regain even a tiny feeling of control over these crazy symptoms. Nick and I have been able to attempt day trips and vacations we might not have otherwise, because the fear of unexpected anaphylaxis is much less. I don't fear as much random, out-of-the-blue anaphylaxis because I know that most times now, Leni will let me know when things are coming before my symptoms actually get bad.
|ER trip due to low blood sugar that we couldn't get above 55.|
As you can tell, I am so thankful for Leni and glad to have her as my protective shadow. But if I were to end this post here, I would be leaving out a huge piece of our story that I never want to forget...all the people who invested in Leni and her training without ever having known me. I cannot say enough good about Buckeye Service Dogs and the incredible work they do with these dogs. I am in touch with other handlers from BSD (one who has Leni's sister!) and we are all so grateful to Christy and her team for the time they spend on these dogs.
One piece of our story that is such an incredible point back to God is the way that Leni and I got paired together. Leni was chosen as a puppy to be a service dog prospect. As she grew, she was selected to be matched with an incredible lady (and now dear friend!) with Myotonia Congenita. Two of Christy's trainers spent the most time working with Leni teaching her basic obedience, public access skills, and disease specific tasks for Kelly. As her training neared the end, however, they realized Leni (at just barely 50 lbs.) was not going to be a large enough dog for Kelly who needed a dog for heavier mobility work. The search was on for another dog for Kelly, and Leni became an almost fully trained service dog with no job...right about the same time we were beginning our service dog journey with BSD.
It was definitely a God-thing that my service dog needs, Leni's already trained tasks, her potential for future scent training, and our personalities would be aligned so well along with the timing of her becoming handler-less and us starting the progress of finding me a service dog...it still amazes me how many pieces came together in a perfect way at the perfect time for Leni and me to become a team! In addition to the growing bond that Leni and I have, through this journey, I have also connected with some people who have become so special to me along the way.
Puppy Leni! Somethings never change =P Photo
credit to either Sara or Katie!
The last person who has become so special to me along this journey is Kelly. She is an incredible wife and mom of 4 who has become such a dear friend through our common bond in Leni. The first time I met her, I actually felt awkward because I now was paired with the dog who had been trained for her for almost 2 years...But that was crazy, because Kelly is such a sweet, beautiful, strong woman who I am so thankful to have met! Kelly's friendship is special to me because she understands what is like to be living with a chronic illness and to be a part of the service dog community because of that. I look up to her and how she handles being a wife and mother while fighting against her body daily. Her joy and resilience are encouraging to watch as she is determined to live life fully and with a smile on her face. I am so blessed to have incredible family and friends who are so supportive no matter what my mast cell disease is doing. But there is something uniquely special about being able to connect with other people who just "get it" on a deeper level because they are walking the same road. We may not have known each other very long, but Kelly is one of those people, and her encouragement and support as Leni and I have grown as a team is something I treasure so dearly.
What. A. Year. It. Has. Been.
Leni was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise very discouraging season of life. We didn't (and don't) expect her to be the cure-all for me. We didn't even know if the mast cell alerting could be trained. But we were hopeful that she could at least be another tool in my health management. Well, you guys have watch our story now for a year, and I'm guessing that you will agree when I say that she has most definitely fulfilled those expectations! A year ago when she "got" me as her handler, I got a partner that knows my body better than I do and has become such an integral part of managing my mast cell disease.