Michelle jokes that she collects “ologists”: neurologists, a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, etc. This type of collection is no laughing matter, though.
Michelle was diagnosed with lupus nearly a decade ago. She explains, “The results of the lupus strain on my body brought about seizures, migraines, and a heart condition called Supraventricular tachycardia.” Experiencing seizures multiple times per week, Michelle couldn’t be left alone and says, “A typical day was kind of scary. It made me feel like I was trapped inside a body and trapped inside a house.” She adds, “My independence was being taken away from me, and I had no control.”
As 2022 got underway, Michelle applied for a Seizure Assist Dog with Can Do Canines and was soon introduced to her new partner, a black Lab named Zeta (through the Name-A-Puppy donation program). Michelle recalls, “I thought it a bit of an unusual name, but OK. After all, it’s just a name. Except it’s not. I looked up the word ‘Zeta’ and discovered it’s the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. OK. But then I read further. The word ‘Zeta’ means ‘spark of life.’ Spark of life!!!!! What a name. For someone who always had a flame of life and was watching it slowly die, here I was being given a gift that would bring that spark back again.”
Zeta has ignited a new peace of mind for Michelle by performing essential skills, even without warning. Michelle says, “I have no aura or anything [before] I’m having [seizures]. So if I have one, I go down wherever I am.” Zeta jumps into action by retrieving either Michelle’s medical bag or her helmet for a family member or someone else to place on Michelle’s head. Next, as Michelle explains, Zeta will “try to lie right there to protect me so that I’m not banging.”
Apart from offering her talents during seizure episodes, Zeta can retrieve items, tug open doors and cupboards, get a phone, and more. Michelle notes that Zeta “is trained to do all the tasks that I require to give me back my independence. Well, maybe not driving!”
The two of them plan to get out and explore the world together more. Michelle feels confident to start riding a recumbent bike with Zeta as her co-pilot. She is also considering going on a cruise sometime soon. This is something Michelle couldn’t imagine a few years ago. She admits, “I just was clueless coming into this. All I knew is I desperately needed help, and I didn’t even know what that would look like. It has been exciting and interesting to see [what] has morphed out of this.”
Believing that this process happened the way it did for a reason, she shares her heartfelt appreciation for Zeta. “From each family and volunteer to those who worked with her in the prison system, it is with the utmost gratitude and respect I have for what you have done and what you have given me. You didn’t just help raise and train a dog. You gave me a spark of life, and I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough. I am truly blessed.”