“Ginger gave me my life back” was how Suz explained her relationship with her service dog.
Suz knew that something had to change. She was not doing activities that she loved. She was not enjoying life. And then came to Ginger!
Suz joined the Navy after college. She started with the reserves, and then joined the Navy and attended Bootcamp in Orlando, FL. She was stationed in San Diego, CA. One night while she was on duty she was bitten by a black widow. Unfortunately, the bite was misdiagnosed and treated as a cactus prick, and the venom from the black widow went through her system.
Suz spent two years in the hospital, had twelve surgeries, and multiple times doctors thought they would have to take her leg. Fortunately, her leg was saved. She still gets steroid shots and has residual pain but she has full use of her leg.
Due to her injury, Suz was honorably discharged from the military with a 100% disability. Suz has other lingering problems from the military, mainly insomnia, and anxiety. Those problems are not just from the situation with the black widow bite but also from several women whom she was in the Navy with that died by suicide, all of this causing PTSD.
Suz has had a variety of jobs between the military and today and has also been an integral caregiver for many in her family who was terminally ill. Suz was doing ok until 2014 when Robin Williams also died by suicide. That triggered many memories that she was having a hard time handling.
As time went on Suz found herself struggling more and more. In the fall of 2018, Suz was caring for a dying aunt, named Betty. Aunt Betty and Suz were very close. They were actually taking care of each other. Prior to Aunt Betty getting sick Suz had a dog that wasn’t a service dog named Baylee Sue that she had to put to sleep. They had been together for thirteen years. Suz had a hard time trusting people outside her family so she depended on Baylee Sue, who showed Suz unconditional love. Through the loss of her mom and two brothers, Baylee had kept Suz sane. Now she was about to lose her aunt.
Aunt Betty told Suz she could not and would not die until Suz had another dog, and not just any dog, but a service dog. That was where Javelan came into the picture. Through her doctor’s recommendation, Suz qualified for a service dog. In this particular case, an organization from Oklahoma called All Hounds on Deck had a dog that they were bringing to Lincoln due to overcrowding. JAVELAN connected the rescue dog with Suz. Now we ask, who rescued who, or is it whom?!
Suz and Ginger
Suz and Ginger became family and started training on December 7, 2018. The wonderful difference between JAVELAN and other programs is that the owner helps train the dog. JAVELAN trainers teach the owners how to train the dog and the dog ultimately highly respects the owner.
After about a month of training Aunt Betty became gravely ill. Ginger was such a comfort not only to Suz but also to Aunt Betty and the nursing staff where Aunt Betty was residing. Ginger was a huge help for Suz, especially at night. Suz says she is a good cuddler!
Aunt Betty passed away but she had her wish granted as Suz and Ginger were inseparable by then. After finishing more training Suz says that Ginger now helps keep her balanced. Ginger helps with depression as she gets Suz out of the house. The two volunteer at the VA Hospital. Suz also helps people take care of their pets when they are in the hospital or while they are having cancer treatments and can’t take care of them by themselves. Ginger is a hit at the hospital where she shows everyone unconditional love. Many times, when people don’t trust humans, they will trust a dog. Suz and Ginger also volunteer at the National Cemetery where they will do anything needed. These activities give Suz purpose. Suz says, “When you start to lose purpose in life, you quit living. I am happy to have a purpose.”
Suz has sleep apnea and Ginger will wake her up. Suz says Ginger just knows what she needs. Sometimes when Suz is talking Ginger will put her mouth over hers and it makes her laugh. Ginger knows when Suz is getting anxious and she just stays close and calms her down.
The JAVELAN trainers say Ginger took to training easily. She is not afraid of loud noises or people, and she is obedient and loyal. It was a special day when Ginger passed her final test.
Suz says that Ginger helps her to be more social and she sleeps much better. She has even been able to get off some of her medication since she and Ginger became a team. Unfortunately, most recently Suz has lost sight in her left eye due to an eye surgery where her eye became infected and left her blind last summer. Her left eye looks unusual, is smaller than her right eye, and is painful. She wears funny eye patches, such as one that looks like she ran into a pencil, to lighten things up and help make everyone more comfortable. She does all she can to not let it get her down. Now Suz is leaning on Ginger to help with this new development. She says Ginger keeps her laughing and gets her through the bad days.
Suz would like to thank All Hands On Deck, JAVELAN, and the person who donated the money for the training for Ginger. Ginger has truly changed her life and for that, she will be forever grateful.
For more information on the JAVELAN program visit the JAVELAN page here.