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My First Year with Kana

This year has been one of the busiest and most life altering years of my life. Many things happened in 2019, but I want to focus on Kana (if you want the full story, health struggles included, please read Recap and Recovery). Kana is my service dog and she graduated and came home to me last year. On March 16, 2019, Kana was able to join our life and carry me (literally) towards a healthier future.

We had many hopes and expectations for how Kana would impact our lives. Kana not only met all our expectations, she exceeded them. As if her general mobility assistance wasn’t enough, Kana also started alerting me before my joint would give out. Within a month of bringing her home, I went from falling multiple times per day to falling only 3-4 times per month. Now, I almost never fall. Beyond the foundational skills of assisting my mobility (helping me get up when I fall, providing counter balance while we walk, bracing when a joint gives out, etc.), she has also made basic tasks much easier. I could go on and on about how she has given me the ability to get my own groceries, go for walks, shower normally, go to the park, go back to the gym, clean the house, etc. etc. She helps in so many ways that most people will never see. More than anything else though, Kana gave me energy back.

It’s hard to explain, but before Kana I had to expend an enormous amount of energy and thought on each and every step I took. I had to evaluate if my body was in alignment, if a joint was likely to slip, how much pressure I’d need for that next step, how much pain it may or may not cause… it was exhausting. Walking around in normal daily life was exhausting. Once I had Kana, I could walk normally. I no longer had to put any thought into walking because I knew if and when a joint gave out, Kana would brace and stabilize me, I’d straighten myself back up, and we’d just keep moving! This freed up an enormous amount of energy and thought in my daily life.

Similarly, Kana replaced my cane. While my cane helps prevent me from falling, it also does a lot of damage to my wrist, elbow, and shoulder and tends to throw my whole body out of alignment. In order for my cane to be useful, I have to apply pressure on it constantly so that when a joint goes out, I’m already prepared to use it. This means I have to put pressure on my cane and “use it” even when I don’t need it. With Kana, I walk normally with my hand resting on her custom-made harness and when I need a brace, she is there for me. Again, this gives me back an enormous amount of energy.

Shortly after Kana came home I was able to start taking the kids to the park again, going on walks with them, taking them out to events, and going on walks/jogs myself. Over the first few months I started increasing my activity level knowing if my legs gave out or if I pushed myself too far, Kana was by my side to help me get back home. I was even able to join my favorite gym again, where they generously modified all of their workouts for me. After almost 9 months with Kana, I am now walking most days without even needing her harness. Kana provides counter balance through her leash and body movements and alerts me if one of my joints is about to give out. After an intense workout, on long walks, or on bad flare days, we use her harness to help me walk. Luckily the frequency of my high flare days has reduced dramatically.

We still have a long way to go and some months are better than others, but overall my health has already had significant improvements thanks to her constant support. We are blown away at how many activities are now available for me to pursue thanks to her assistance. We could never have imagined that my health would be able to improve so rapidly. Both Kevin (my husband) and I are still hoping for a future where we are able to manage my condition with little to no symptoms, but this hope is still a long way off. Even if we get to a place where Kana's harness is rarely needed, she will still monitor my joints and stability walking by my-side for the remainder of her life. She's my partner, my girl, my miracle, and my strength. I am so excited to see what Kana is able to help me accomplish in 2020.

I'll end with this quote that I love: "It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop." - Confucious


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