Who is That Lady, and Why Does She Have a Dog??
Updated: Jun 3
I have a dog. He's big, he's yellow, and he's a bit of a goof.
More importantly, I have a service dog, and his name is Leland, but by now, I bet you've put two and two together, and already knew that. Now, I don't need a wheelchair, I am not missing any limbs since the last time I checked, and I'm not blind, but I still have a huge, yellow service dog.
I served in the military for five years, and during that time, situations arose, circumstances changed, and I dealt with things that were not always easy.
Leland is my life raft. No, seriously, this huge, yellow, goof is the thing that helps me navigate the world, and function as independently as I can. He's my superhero. That's why I've dubbed him "Leland, the Super Dog". His leash is always wrapped around my chest, connected to him, with my left hand always wrapped in it, and with him, never more than a foot away from my side.
To the public, it may look odd for a by-all-appearances-completely-healthy-individual to have a huge service dog by her side, but it's because they simply don't know. They don't know what it would be like without him, or how I was before him. They see me, at my best, which is grocery shopping on my own, going to work like a normal human being, and exploring the world without trepidation.
The question still left, even after tackling the world with him, is how do we help people understand? Do I get a bullhorn and shout in every grocery aisle that we're working, and to not come up and pet him? Do I spend every penny I have on a private plane to fly a banner around?
The answer came to me after volunteering with Sierra Delta (Service Dogs for Heroes), which is the group that connected me with Southeastern Guide Dogs, which raised and trained Leland; reach out, speak up, and educate people every chance that I get. Whether it be in the middle of my dentist's office, an IHOP, or in the dairy aisle of Kroger.
Thus, this website, my book, and my public speaking were born. Keep an eye out for us. I'll keep trying to answer questions, if you see us in public, or on social media, stop us. I love saying hi, and I love answering questions and educating.
-Stefanie and Leland