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Chapter 08

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While July 4th appears on every calendar in the world, that date holds special significance here in America. That’s the day we celebrate declaring our independence from Great Britain. Most people think that July 4th, 1776  is when we made that declaration, but that actually happed two days earlier on July 2nd. It just took two days for Congress to ratify and sign the Declaration of Independence.

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Since July 4th, 1776 was the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Holiday is often referred to as “Independence Day”. As someone with cerebral palsy who has to rely on the help of others to do a lot of things, I celebrate each thing I can do independently.
Two of the biggest milestones I reached independently were graduating from Gardner-Webb University and purchasing my now eight month-old puppy Gabe. I had help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) in the morning and at night while at GWU, but all the academic work and extracurricular activities I accomplished independently.
I have had many dogs over the years, but when Molly, my 18-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix, passed away on July 4th, 2021, my next puppy needed to be all mine. I wanted complete independence in everything associated with my new puppy, from choosing the breed to paying  the vet bills. Of course, I chose an AKC registered Chesapeake Bay Retriever and with that choice came sticker shock and a hefty price tag. That doggie in the window cost more than it used to.
Over the next six months, I felt like Billy Coleman in Wilson Rawls’ famous novel, Where The Red Fern Grows. Like Billy, I worked and sweated for my dog, saving every dollar I could so I could say this was my dog. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when paying for Gabe.
That sense of accomplishment and independence has only increased over the months. One of the hallmarks of the Chessie breed is that they are not as outgoing and friendly to strangers as a Lab. Instead, they choose an inner circle of people on which to bestow the majority of their affection. Of that inner circle, one person is picked to be the Chessie’s human and I’m the lucky winner. Gabe wants to spend every minute as close to me as possible. When I go outside, he leaves whatever he is doing to be petted or played with by me, even if someone else is playing with him. If Gabe cannot see me, all someone has to ask is, “Where’s Jacob?” and he will come find me. Gabe is truly my dog.
Even though Gabe is not a service dog, he does many things that are of great help to me. He comforted me when my duck Virus died, getting as close to me as possible and giving me hugs because he knew I was upset. I hope to return the favor during the Independence Day celebrations. Fireworks, firecrackers and other explosives can be very upsetting for dogs. Much like during thunderstorms, they are nervous, pant and they don’t know what’s going on. Rest assured, I will have plenty of Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats on hand, along with pets, hugs and soothing words to let him know that everything is going to be ok, just like he did for me.
If you have ever seen any of the Scooby-Doo Cartoons, just a few Scooby Snax would give Scooby and his best pal Shaggy the courage to face any monster. I’m sure Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats will do the same for Gabe as we face the monster known as fireworks together.
Honestly, due to my cerebral palsy and resulting startle reflex, I don’t like fireworks either, so I am sure Gabe and I will be a comfort to each other. It’s just another step in our journey together. Due to my disability, I may not ever be truly independent, but at the very least, Gabe helps me to feel that way. That is something worth celebrating any day of the year.