A Service Dog is never OUT OF SERVICE

Chester 120628 Looking up the stairsBy Mary Duggan

I am deeply touched by folks who meet us in public and inquire after Chester, my service dog. I see the look of disappointment on their faces when they realize he is not with me. Then I see the look of real pain when I update them on his recovery and tell them just bits of what he has been through this past year.

I don’t know if Chester will ever again be able to take on his big job of assisting me through the neurological challenges of my life with a TBI. My sisters are always determined that his working life will be fully restored with some work with the folks at Morris Service Dog. I am just delighted that he is on the mend: his thyroid has finally responded to treatment, his weight loss puts the Duggan Sisters to shame and Hallelujah, his liver values have returned to normal. And one day he was even able to get into the car unassisted, a critical prerequisite of being able to perform as a service dog. We all cheered – delighted and encouraged – and Chester looked exceedingly proud and pleased with himself as well. He knew what the completion of that task meant.

But now summer is upon us and I am nervous about my neighbors and wonder how many of them will still choose to spray their lawns with dangerous chemicals. The “I have sprayed death” flag flies proudly over the lawn of my next door neighbor already; so forgive me if I remain deeply concerned for Chester’s health and ours as well. If I’d had the heart, or maybe if I lacked one entirely, I would have videotaped Chester having one of his 20-minute long seizures. Maybe millions of YouTube hits of that heartbreaking scene would have inspired folks to stop spraying their lawns with sickening chemicals.

A large part of Chester’s neurological recovery has involved deep, dark, cave-like retreat into sleep. I remember my brain responding in much the same way in the years following my TBI. And I still retreat into sleep whenever anything taxes my brain health. So seeing Chester sweetly sprawled and snoring on top of a mound of ivy deep in the cool, damp recesses of our yard brings smiles to all of our faces.

chester in ivy

Months and months passed as Chester slowly rebuilt his ability to walk very, very slowly within a few house radius of our own. He is now happily and healthfully able to go all the way around the block. We have him tanked on Milk Thistle to protect his liver. So, hopefully we will not have to deny him his great joy of checking in on the neighbors as he takes his 5 walks each day – because Chester loves walks, people and other dogs. He is still not keen on cats; but then nobody’s perfect.

And me? I’m just fine, and thanks for asking; thankfully I miss Chester’s assistance less all the time. I have found that by adhering rigorously and religiously to a wheat-free/gluten-free diet my brain and neurological well-being have soared. I can’t recommend the wheat-free diet enough to EVERYONE. Your brain will thank you.

And speaking of thank you, no one deserves a shout out more than Clare. The road  back for Chester was not easy for Clare either. But she never gave up and she never gave in. She has not had more than a handful of nights with uninterrupted sleep for the past year as she alone saw Chester through the rigors of recovering from pesticide poisoning. If you saw her out in the winter walking Chester at 2 or 3 a.m. what you were witnessing was a devoted Mom coaxing damaged organs and a disoriented pup back to a healthy life. Let’s hope and pray that her hard work will not be undone in the name of carpet-like lawns this summer.

Who knows, maybe it’s time to advance Chester to the higher calling and definitely more rigorous training of a therapy dog – a vocation to which he is definitely called. You  only have to witness him working the dining room of the Presbyterian Home when we are there, Chester in tow, visiting our 90-year-old Aunt Betty, to see just how gifted he is as a spirit lifter. Or sit on the front porch with us any day of the week. Here’s an example of why.

Recently one of the darling little girls who bless our block shared with Clare that one day she had not been able to walk to school with her best friend. These two are inseparable in the way that is so important to 11-year-olds.  So this minor abandonment precipitated a serious down in the dumps for this particular grade schooler. But, we were told, she took a quick detour to our front porch where Chester insists on presiding each morning to cheer on the parade of morning commuters and kids walking to school. He barks and wiggle waggles his curly tail and makes sure everyone gets their morning greeting. As the story goes the little girl swung in quickly for a “Chester hug” and then continued on to school feeling much better about the problems and loneliness weighing on her.

All in a morning’s work for Chester, my OUT OF SERVICE service dog.


See Chester in action at Kohler’s Women’s Wellness Weekend


About the author:

Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters.

The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks.  We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring duggansisters.com to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.

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