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woman with his service dog


Jessica and Shawnee

February 01, 2024

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What a pair of beautiful young ladies! Jessica traveled the furthest in this class having come from Texas to be partnered with Shawnee– even more impressive is that this was her second trip to us because she also traveled all that way to be here in person for her interview – something she could have done via computer or video.

Jessica was definitely one of our shy ones in this class, but as the three weeks progressed she began to find her voice and her journals, which started out as a very short blip about her day, turned into meaningful, lengthy reflections of her growth with Shawnee. Shawnee gave her a work out during the class when she had to use a bizarre word to make Shawnee’s tail wag. Apparently, Shawnee’s tail was broken that day and the antics which Jessica had to perform to get her dog to wag had us all in hysterics. They raise them polite down south and I smiled each time Jessica called me Miss Darlene or Ma’am. She took her work here seriously respecting her trainers and her partnership by arriving promptly for class each day, prepared and ready to go.

But behind that quiet smile there is a second degree black belt in Tae kwon do with the goals of going to college, and becoming a nurse. Shawnee realized at Longwood that battling her new mom was probably pointless. But she tried anyway, refusing to retrieve the metal lion and challenging Jessica’s patience and persistence. Jessica, of course, won that battle! They had some more battles after that but they were pretty minor. I think Shawnee realized how much her mom appreciated her and was basking in the glory of being referred to as Jessica’s guardian angel in all of the journal entries.

It was fitting that Shawnee was dressed as an angel (feather wings and lighted halo and all) for Halloween. And although Jessica hasn’t had a seizure since she’s been here, she knows what to look for when Shawnee finally has the opportunity to alert. I was touched by Jessica’s comment in her application “I am still that free spirited girl however my parents are having to limit my spirit for my safety. Though I understand why, I don’t like it”. So now she heads home to Texas with her new partner prepared to claim back her independence from Epilepsy, to quit living in fear and to help her folks do the same, and to let that spirit flow however she wants it to flow!