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Today Sugarfoot’s Service Dog vest came in the mail. I put it on her and adjusted the straps. It seems to be comfortable to her, and is easy to put on and take off.

We went to the market at the corner. I have been in there thousands of times. Today was the first time Sugar didn’t have to wait outside for me. Well, she could have come in before. She’s had her certification for a couple of months. But I had no vest or harness that would signal her purpose and status before today. And I felt it would be unfair to the store owner, staff and other patrons to bring a dog inside their store without a clear indicator of why she had the right to be there.


Sugar has been a source of help and support to me for a long time. She has been my best friend for years. She has made the most unlivable days possible to get through. She has washed away the tears from my face when I was alone, panicked and frozen. She is always there for me. I can’t imagine what my life would be without her.

People who don’t know Sugarfoot see her vest and assume that Sugarfoot helps me in ways that they might not be able to describe. But the vest with the words “Service Dog” somehow confers “all-right-ness” upon her. The smart ones don’t try to pet her.

But it’s a little different when people who have seen us together on the streets of my little town for years. They are sometimes a little puzzled. They ask questions.

“OK, but what does she do?”

Well, she does a lot of things. Some of them are easy to see. She will pick up dropped objects if I ask her to. If I can’t remember where in the house I left my cane, I can say “Sugar, where’s my stick?” And she will go and find it. She stands and looks from it to me. If I ask her, she will bring it.

She does this and other things on command. And they are a big help. But the most important thing she does is simply be there.

This is what I need really need her for. I have panic disorder and agoraphobia. Which means that every now and then, sometimes often, terror will descend upon me. Often for no apparent reason. As I have heard it described:

"You feel like you're going to die.

You feel like it's going to be really horrible.

And you feel like there's nothing you can do about it."

The conviction is intense - even when, intellectually, you know it isn't true.

Often there are physical symptoms, much like those of a heart-attack. Rapid, pounding pulse, faintness, dizzyness, hyperventilation, sweating, chill, and even nausea. Pick one. Pick three. Take them all.

There are times when I’m out in the world (or at home, for that matter), and out of the blue, panic comes swooping down on me like a murder of malignant crows. It is then that Sugarfoot performs her best work.


Sometimes, on the street, people look at me like I'm carrying something fatal that they might catch, and scuttle away, avoiding even eye-contact.

Or sometimes people can be fluttering about, offering advice, and asking well-meant but frankly, stupid questions. They are of course, unaware that my concentration is so shattered that I have great difficulty framing a reply.

“What happened?”

“Should I call an ambulance?”

“Why don’t you just calm down?”

Right then, Sugarfoot is better than three shrinks and a paramedic. She leans against me, looks into my eyes and says, “I’m here. I love you. You’re OK. You’re not alone. This will pass, it always passes.”

(I had to hear it from the Dalai Lama. My dog knew it all along.)

And it does. It passes. My heart stops pounding, my veins stop feeling like they’re full of steel wool, my breathing normalizes, and a sigh escapes my lips. “OK. Better now. Thanks again, Sugar.”

That’s what she does. And she does it better than anyone.


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My goodness, what a beautifully articulated story, a true delight to read. My friend's dog senses the onset of muscle melt down that comes with her illness. He pokes his nose firmly into her arm or leg before she is likely to collapse to the ground.


What a wonderful tribute to Sugar and all service dogs. They are true heroes and champions. Thanks for sharing your"s and Sugar's story. She's awesome !!!!


Oops, I almost forgot to say, well done on your training efforts, this is real teamwork.

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This is the best description and articulation of a service dog's purpose that I've ever read. And this is but one of countless scenarios in which service dog's shine.

Bless you and thank you for taking the time to explain to the rest of us what a treasure your beautiful Sugarfoot is. :wub:

And she looks awesome in her new outfit! :P

~ Gloria

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Thanks everyone for you kind words about my dog and my story. Sugarfoot came to me off a Petfinders page. She was a mess when I got her - fearfulness issues, physical issues, and several months older than she was supposed to be. But she came around slowly, and is every bit the "normal dog" now. And of course, the best dog in the world... :D

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Sugarfoot looks very smart, and I think it is great she is able to now publicly support you and be recognized as an official service dog. Your writing really makes clear the important work dogs can do, even when those around can't clearly see that work, unlike some service dogs whose roles are obvious. Wishing you both many happy years together with Sugarfoot proudly stepping out in her work clothes.

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