Have you ever loved someone or something so much, and had to set them or it free? After much heartfelt consideration, and many hours of heavy contemplation, I have had to make the difficult decision to retire my beloved service dog, Casper within the next year. This is one of the toughest choices I’ve had to make in my life. And, one, I’ve unfortunately, had to make two times before with my previous service dogs, Sparky and Sully. Ironically, while such a monumental change is bittersweet, it isn’t without its adventures.
Loving Casper, a cuddly, thoughtful, warm-hearted, and giving yellow Labrador Retriever has been such a tremendous gift in my life. He has seen me through many ups and downs over the course of our almost six year partnership. Many of you may have followed our strives, after we were first matched on our PAALS blog.
A lot has happened since that first year. I got a full-time job with a non-profit organization called Able South Carolina during our second year of being partners. Casper and I work to create greater access and opportunities for independence through empowering individuals with disabilities and promoting community inclusion. Together, we educate as well as train Federal and State agencies, local government entities, community organizations, and individuals with disabilities as well as service providers on the American with Disabilities Act, Disability Sensitivity, Emergency Preparedness, Hiring People with Disabilities, Housing, Transitioning, Service Animals, and Independent Living Skills to name but a few topics. We use public transportation to get to and from work, and community events. Casper transcends disability and the stereotype that individuals with disabilities need to be taken care of in life. He changes ideology; his quiet, compelling presence showcases my abilities, not challenges. I call him the EQUALIZER!! We have travelled to Washington DC and Atlanta, Georgia, for work, as well as around the state to promote community inclusion and access for all. I fondly smile as people we meet often remember Casper’s name, and when they call my office looking for assistance, they say, “I am calling to speak with Casper’s assistant, his partner.” What that says is that he is definitely loved and remembered.
This last year, I lost one of my biggest supporter’s, role model’s, and motivator’s; my mother. It has been one of the hardest times of my life! She taught me that to truly fly and succeed, sometimes, you have to face the biggest obstacles head on. In losing her, I had to go forward, taking with me, her unconditional love, generosity, and ability to laugh and carry on, even in the face of adversity. I remember as a child when people encouraged her to coddle, overprotect, or enable me, my mom gave me the greatest present, and my dad continues to do so…. “Let go, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, learn from your errors, and live your life to the fullest, regardless of disability.” Casper has been by my side through this difficult loss. When I feel sad, or I am having a hard day, he serves as a reminder, “Unconditional love means loving someone in times of joy or hardship, and their needs take precedence over yours.”
I know many people are saddened that I have made the choice to retire Casper, but Casper has been indicating that the time is coming. He loves his job, but he is slowing down. He still has that jubilant spirit, and loves me endlessly, as I do him. But when you love any creature, whether they be human or canine, it is our privilege to take care of them. A partnership is two creatures equally giving and taking. As Casper’s partner, who has been the recipient of his unwavering love as well as devotion, it is my duty to look out for his needs and wants. For all of the tireless hours, days, weeks, months, and years of service he has given me, I’m giving him the same in return by retiring him. I consulted with PAALS and Casper’s vet in making this decision. Both were in agreement; the time is coming this next year. But don’t fret, Casper will still live with us as a pet, and receive his 401 K. 🙂 My husband is elated because now he and Casper can bond more.
Casper’s earnest personality and whole-hearted, loving nature has encouraged me to embark on a new adventure, knowing he is ready to embrace another canine friend into our home to serve as his successor. I am happy to announce I re-applied to PAALS, and have been accepted to train for a successor service dog. So, with this in mind, we hope that you will follow our new blog detailing Casper’s journey to retirement, and my quest to be matched as well as train with a new service dog.
On the day after Valentine’s Day, I remember that love changes lives and never truly ends, even in separation or death. When you love with your whole heart and being, endings evolve into new beginnings. The zest for life that Casper brings to my life, has allowed us to become a PAALS Weekend Foster Family for the last year and a half, and the love he shares with the Foster Pups, is the caring he will share with his eventual successor, and together, all of our love will grow, and we can share it with our community as we thrive.
To support us in our endeavor to train with a successor dog, and for Casper to receive his 401 K, please follow us on our new journey, feel free to make a tax-deductible donation to PAALS via our team training fund, and watch our progress at: https://www.paals.org/dori-tempio/
A gift to be treasured,
The beauty of partnership,
It has no limits, or boundaries,
Withstanding any barrier.
A love that doesn’t diminish,
Through the joyful and bleak times,
Never doubting, ever trusting,
Paw and hand.
Side by side,
Two hearts that care,
Canine and human,
I share with you, my partner, my friend,
Casper, a bond that never ends!