May The FORCE Be With You!

Casper holding his lightsaber!

Casper holding his lightsaber!

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…there was a dedicated group of canine and human warriors alike. They lived in the PAALS sector of the region.” “It is a period of rebuilding. Dark days have passed after massive flooding, and disastrous destruction took over the PAALS inhabitants, and destroyed their training facility. A hidden force, have won their first victory against the perils of the enormous overflowing of water and sewage. During the tribulations, Jedi volunteers managed to come together, rebuild, and salvage the home, sanctuary, freedom, and independence of the troopers who work hard to live self-sufficiently.

 

Casper and his twin, Rylo Ken, battling the Jedi, Bryan, and Princess Leia, Dori, for the FORCE!

Casper and his twin, Rylo Ken, battling the Jedi, Bryan, and Princess Leia, Dori, for the FORCE!

Pursued by the wonderful citizens of the Palmetto Galaxy to continue spreading the message of hope as well as diversity, Princess Leia aka, Dori races home aboard her wheelcraft, battling the soon to be Dark One, Rylo Ken, otherwise known as Casper to open the minds of many, and ensure all people have opportunities in order to restore autonomy to the galaxy….”

 

Casper, Dori, and Bryan with a new community friend.

Casper, Dori, and Bryan with a new community friend.

“Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” – Barbara de Angelis. Casper and I have experienced many exciting times together, over our almost six year partnership, and that journey began because several people had a deep passion within them that we refer to as the “FORCE.” Every one had an amazing drive within them that propelled each to accomplish great feats.  For instance, Jennifer Rogers, PAALS Executive Director, lost her brother Rob, a Police Officer.  That one incident gave her the initiative to want to do for others; to give people with disabilities the freedom and independence to fulfill their dreams.  Jamie, Reba’s Foster Mom, Reba, Casper’s canine mother, and Guiding Eyes For the Blind who provided Casper to PAALS all gave him unselfish nurturing, because he was the runt of his litter.  Jamie fed Casper by bottle twice daily to help him grow. Had she not, he would not have gone on to become a strong, healthy service dog.  PAALS Pup-sitters and Fosters, while sometimes, an unacknowledged job, probably the most imperative one, all took Casper into their homes on weekends, loved him, and reinforced his basic obedience skills. Prison PAALS’s, out of Kershaw County Correctional Institute, inmates trained Casper, daily during the week, on the skills he needed to assist me in carrying out tasks.  Trainers who worked one-on-one with Casper and me to tailor his skills to my needs. Our PAALS Liaison, Sheri, who each year polishes our teamwork, helps us prepare for our annual certification test, and is always there, with a positive spirit. All of these people contributed to Casper’s “FORCE.”  It is a warmth within his spirit that draws the community in, allows him to assist me daily, and educates many others. 😀

 

Casper, Jen, and me at his Graduation from PAALS.

Casper, Jen, and me at his Graduation from PAALS.

I was asked last week, “How do you know you have that bond with Casper, or anyone does with their service dog?”  Simply put, “It is a melding of hearts and minds that eventually becomes symbiotic.”  I knew I was the fortunate recipient of Casper’s “FORCE” about two weeks into our partnership when I asked him to open my freezer.  Jen and the other trainers had told me he was reluctant to do it for them.  I am always game for trying, so I asked him to “tug” the drawer open.  He did not hesitate; Casper tugged it open with zest, pulled the shelf, and handed me the bacon, tail wagging. Rapidly, he closed the drawer when he finished.  Why did he do it for me?  My intuition says, Casper knew I needed it done; it wasn’t a choice for me. He is quite smart, and can work through difficult tasks which is also another key component of his “FORCE.”

 

Casper getting my phone at work.

Casper getting my phone at work.

Casper Pushing the Crosswalk Button.

Casper Pushing the Crosswalk Button.

“Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation.” – John Ruskin  Casper’s “FORCE” makes my “FORCE” stronger. You see, my parents helped me create mine…the desire to push forward, in spite of obstacles that may lie in my path.  My mom’s voice is always in the back of my mind saying, “If you want things to change, you have to be a part of the solution.” My dad’s words follow closely behind, reiterating, “You can only change the things that are within your control. Don’t worry about the things you cannot control.” Understanding those ideas led me down my path to acquiring a service dog; I wanted to broaden the opportunities for those with service dogs.  When an individual applies for a service dog, many parts come into play. Filling out an application, doing an interview with the client committee, a home visit, and a personal reference.  Once you make it through that process, you are then given the option to pay or raise funds for the cost of team training, that is $5,000, which is only a small part of the $22,000-$29,000 that it takes to raise, train, and place each assistance dog, industry-wide.

Casper and I teaching a child to read.

Casper and I teaching a child to read.

People have asked me, “What is team training, and a team training fund?”  Team training is where the client, PAALS trainers, and matched canine partner, spend two- three weeks together tailoring the dog’s skills to match the client’s needs as well as tasks. You spend time at the PAALS Facility, out in the community, in your home, and as is in my case, at my job.  It also includes follow-up sessions and unwavering assistance when the team needs it. For clients with disabilities, like myself, we are given the option to raise the funds for PAALS, because having a disability can have medical costs associated with it.  Medications, adaptive equipment like a power wheelchair that costs $20, 000 – 30,000, therapies, and health care provider expenses.

 

Casper helping me stand up.

Casper helping me stand up.

To ask others for help, specifically financial, is not an easy task, especially for me. I’d rather be the one assisting others…of which I try to do in other ways, not only at PAALS, but in the community as a whole.  Casper and I are writing this blog to help let others know about service dogs, the journey to retirement, and how the process works.  And, we hope we assist others along the way!! 

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Casper opening the freezer.

 Casper and I wanted to show you his “FORCE” in action, and why team training is so important to a service dog team. He and I learned all of our skills during team training. My successor service dog will be taught to turn lights on and off, tug open doors, pick up dropped items, help with laundry, remove clothing, and alert for help to assist individuals who use wheelchairs like me. We filmed this video a few years ago based on a request from a young girl at a PAALS event; she said, “I want to see how Casper helps you from the time you get up to the time you go to bed.” My husband and I are not videographers, but here is why having a service dog is vital to my life!! 😀

 Click on the link below:

https://vimeo.com/66215542?email_id=Y2xpcF90cmFuc2NvZGVkfGJhMDYxZDg5YjIxM2RiZmVlMzM1OTYwYzk0YmJkYTliNjk1fDE4MzI4NjI2fDEzNjg1OTM4NDg%3D&utm_campaign=7701&utm_medium=clip-transcode_complete-finished-20120100&utm_source=email

 Because Casper’s “FORCE” allows me to keep flourishing, when I realized his retirement, “The Dark One” was approaching, I knew I had to re-apply to PAALS for his successor. PAALS’s “FORCE” brought me Casper, Casper’s “FORCE” gave me independence, and my “FORCE” allows us to share it with others. Casper and I want to celebrate his gifts, and so, we are holding a “FUN” raiser in honor of his retirement.  He wanted to have a party on the biggest party day of the year: St. Patrick’s Day, since he is my lucky charm!  Casper said for the human guests he wanted Corn beef, cabbage, and green beer. For his canine guests, he wanted Irish Dog Bones, and green kibble.  Upon further thought, Casper decided everyone works hard enough already whether you have a job like he does, volunteer, or are a parent.

 

Casper wants you instead, to sit on your couch, binge watch your favorite tv show (He votes for “Lassie or Frasier” with Eddie.), and have a toast in honor of his “Doggone Dedication For Six Years of Service!” In lieu of a gold bone for enthusiastic effort or other retirement gifts, Casper graciously requests that you make a donation to Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services (PAALS) to help us fun-raise for the cost of training sessions for a successor service dog, so he can kick back and receive his 401K. 

If you would like to be a part of the fun, and celebrate Casper as well as honor PAALS and all service dogs, you can purchase a ticket for $25.00 each to stay home and relax. We know finances are tight, so any amount is deeply appreciated by us!! 

 Please make all donations to PAALS at either:

        Online at: https://www.paals.org/dori-tempio/

or by mail

PAALS

221 N. Grampian Hills Rd., Columbia, SC 29223

 In the Fall, PAALS Training Facility was ruined by flooding, and through volunteers, has just re-opened a couple weeks ago. If we surpass our goal, the additional funds will go to help PAALS keep rebuilding their program to help more people with disabilities like me. The donation is eligible for a tax deduction for you as well. To ensure your donation is tax deductible from PAALS, please don’t write any notes on the check itself. Include any personal messages or designation to Dori Tempio’s team training fund in a separate note.

 

Casper, Dori, Bryan, and client, Sherry.

Casper, Dori, Bryan, and client, Sherry.

The “FORCE” of Casper’s life is reflected daily to me. But, the magnitude of his “FORCE” goes wider then even I imagined. Two weeks ago, we were outside a shopping plaza, and a three year old girl approached us. She asked why I was in a wheelchair and why my dog could go to the store. I explained that he was a service dog, and Casper showed her some of his skills.  She was overjoyed, and asked if she could go shopping with Casper.   Last weekend, Casper and I were at a work conference assisting adolescents with disabilities transitioning from high school to adulthood.  Three teens with varying disabilities; autism, a visual disability, and a physical disability, asked if they could take selfies with Casper. They said to me, “People think having a disability is an awful thing, but Casper makes disability cool!” Later in the week, we were at The Assistive Technology Expo and we were facilitating sessions as well as sitting at my work organization’s table, sharing information, and a lady stops and says, “I’ve watched you and him all day. The things he does for you are amazing. I have a daughter with a disability and seeing Casper gives me hope anything is possible for her.” Casper proceeded to give her PAALS information, and I discussed service dogs. Yesterday before the PAALS Un-gala celebration, we went to get my hair done, and the hairdresser, who I’ve known for years looks down at Casper lying on the floor, and proclaims, “I love Casper; my husband is a veteran and he’s wanted a service dog. We’ve been trying to find somewhere to go; Casper walked over and gave her PAALS contact.”

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Casper and Dori with two clients she mentored during their training.

Casper and Dori with two clients she mentored during their training.

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Casper and Dori getting asked for a selfie.

May The Force Be With You!

May The Force Be With You!

The “FORCE” shines everywhere, and in each creature, human or not. As you proceed in the days ahead, know that all of you have impacted our lives, and the “FORCE” you instill in us, is shared daily with numerous people in the community.  Casper and I hope each of you feel the strength and power your support, dedication, and motivation gives us.  Thank you, and as we close this blog entry, we share our wishes for you, “May The FORCE Be With You!”