MY SERVICE DOG'S JOURNEY WITH MY CANCER

I lead my hearing ear dog, Sita, back to the room where I get the chemo. A staff person greets me as I slip off the orange vest with the forbidding words, “Do not pet.” Sita follows the person down the hall with tail wagging and heads to the drawer that has the treats.

I shut the door where I receive two shots in either the arms or stomach from the chemo nurse. There is a knock on the door and after opening it, I see my beautiful yellow lab with her gorgeous amber eyes, perky soft ears and cold pink nose eagerly greeting me. I put the vest back on and we walk out together. We will follow this routine for four more days this week.

I received Sita a year before my mother died. She was trained in the Ohio prison program to be a hearing ear dog. She alerts me by “bumping” or nudging me with her nose whenever the telephone rings, someone approaches me or any other unexpected noise. She is my ears, my companion, soul mate and friend.

We have had some struggles along the way. Sita and I visited my mother in assisted living daily right after I brought her home. A year later, Mom died a horrible and painful death with me sobbing at her side and Sita standing next to me. Eighteen months after that, I was diagnosed with cancer. My faithful buddy was with me when I received the devastating news and accompanied me to my follow up visits to the oncologist. I was on oral chemo for six years and visited the doctor monthly. This is where the whole routine started.

The staff at the cancer center is all fantastic and love animals. They brought treats for Sita and told me they looked for my name a couple of days before my visits. They explained that she always made them feel better. I know they have a rough job, so was happy to oblige them. They eagerly anticipated her being taken out of vest, sitting up and chomping happily on her bones.

We had discovered Sita had another talent besides being a service dog. The place that trained her agreed with me she would have been a wonderful therapy dog. She was chosen to be one of the elite, since only one of 100 dogs makes it to the finish line as a service dog. Her sweet and laid back disposition, plus her soft-looking face charms people who are ill. The staff soon began taking her in to see the patients receiving chemo, and the smile on their faces filled the room. She knows how to be a therapy dog for several minutes. But, as soon as the vest went back on she changes. Sita walks out and struts with me down the hallway ready to be working again.