How My Service Dog Helps Me Live With Chronic Pain


Sally and Robbie.
Sally and Robbie.

Robbie is my service dog. He helps me manage my complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) on a daily basis by preventing flares that might be caused by opening a door or falling down. His tasks help make my life with pain a little bit easier.

The world sees Robbie as a dog. The law sees him as an assistive device. Strangers see him as a mythical being. My fiancé sees him as a reason to be a little less worried about leaving me when he goes to work each day. Friends see him as a loving goofball. I see all of that and beyond. To me, Robbie is more than a dog.

Robbie and I are the epitome of a package deal. He is with me always, always watching, always helping, always loyal. He and I go everywhere and do everything together. He comes to the bathroom with me. When I shower, he sleeps on the bathmat right outside the shower door. He stands beside me while I brush my teeth. He braces when I wobble on one foot as I fumble with my pants, steadying me long enough to get dressed safely. If I disappear from his sight, he wanders room to room until he finds me again. When I call out for help, he’ll leave his warm, snuggly bed to come to my aid. If I sit on the floor too long, he pads over to volunteer a bracing stand. He sleeps on the kitchen floor while I make dinner or do dishes. He goes grocery shopping with me. He comes out to dinner on girls’ night, and naps under the table on date night. If I could go to movies, he would come with me. He lets me fiercely clutch his neck fur during doctor appointments. He carefully eyes the doctors when they take my blood or check an IV drip, like a silent guardian angel. He wags his tail gently when I call him to me. He looks at me reproachfully if I get out of bed on sick days. But as long as it’s his idea, he will coax me into playing with him when I’m supposed to be on bed rest. He silently hopes I’ll share my beef pot roast, but never takes it from me. He stops on a dime when my legs give out. He licks my face when the pain almost makes me blackout. He catches me when I fall — literally.

We spend all of our time together. By default, I spend more time with him than my fiancé. Robbie is the last “good night” given, and the first “good morning.” When I have small triumphs during the day, he is the first to enjoy them with me. He hears all my worries, all my fears, all my doubts. He gets to hear my rants long before they reach their intended audiences. His golden ears soak up every detail on daily to-do lists, and his amber eyes soften when I speak. He snuggles me on the bad days, and joyfully bounces around me around the good ones.

Robbie
Robbie.

I am never greeted after a long day apart because we are rarely apart. When I ask Robbie to hold a position farther than 50 feet away from me, his eyes never leave me. He quivers with excitement as I return and gently wiggles all around me once released to say “hi.” When he needed to have X-rays done to certify healthy hip joints, we were separated for four to five hours. In that time, I felt lost and empty. When we were reunited, I felt whole again, like a person placed on life support until a vital organ could be returned. Robbie is my vital organ. He is a piece of me, a piece that I desperately need and love.

Robbie running in an open field
Robbie.

Robbie is trained to great precision, and held to lofty standards, but he is more than his training. He is kind, soft, gentle, intelligent, stubborn, manipulative, and strong. We spend more time training and playing than doing anything else. We get annoyed and frustrated with each other, but it’s understandable. We both get bored spending so much time together, but then something exciting happens that makes it all worthwhile again. His triumphs are my triumphs, his setbacks are mine. We grow together. We learn together. We work together. We thrive together.

Robbie is more than a dog. He is more than an assistive device. He is more than a mythical being. He is more than a reason to be less worried. He is more than a loving goofball.

Robbie is my life.

Robbie is my everything.

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