He was called Tommy, and he definitely was a son of a bitch. Even so, everyone liked him, and he was popular in the neighborhood. One day however, Tommy was hit by a car and his back was broken. He was left paralyzed, and after that people didn’t seem to care about him much anymore.
Then Tommy met Susan Fulcher, and she was ready to help Tommy move on with his life. This is what Susan lived for. Prior to meeting Tommy, she had helped dozens of other dogs who had been paralyzed. Susan runs the Dharma Rescue Organization in Los Angeles California. As I watched the video and listened to the reporter on the CBS Evening News, I just knew this was something that I needed to share with my two legged friends. Each dog at the rescue organization is fitted with a custom “doggie wheelchair,” and then helped to adjust to their new life, which involves helping others.
What struck me as I watched the report, was the dogs’ ability to quickly overcome and adapt to their disability. I reflected on how they must have accepted what had happened to them, and did not look back on their old life. They didn’t seem to mourn or ponder the what-ifs, they simply appeared to just move on. When I was going through rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Denver, I was overcome by the thought that my new life would likely be unproductive. The thought of merely existing until I passed away was extremely depressing. After interacting with others like myself and doing some self reflection however, I began to realize what happened to me going forward was almost completely under my control. I worked on making some attitudinal adjustments, and began to move on with a more positive outlook. These dogs however just seem to move on without all the drama, approaching their new life with enthusiasm. I have deduced that it is only in this spirit that one can overcome their own disability, whatever it might be, and see a path forward in order to help others. I believe this transition is so critical, that teaching about it, talking about it, and sharing about it is absolutely critical to the mental transformation people living with disabilities must make, in order to move back on the path of living a productive life. They say humans are at the top of the food chain, but apparently we must be taught what appears to come natural to the canine world. Let these dogs serve as an example of what can be accomplished if we are willing to accept what has happened to us, and move forward.
Rich Fabend, author of this article, began teaching social studies in 1965 after graduating from a SUNY College in a small rural area in upstate New York. Over the next 32 years he received certification as a high school principal, health teacher and teacher of special education. In February 1999, while on vacation in the Caribbean Rich was struck by a wave which drove him to the bottom, breaking four vertebrae in his neck and leaving him a C6 quadriplegic. I approach my new life with Christopher Reeve’s philosophy. “I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I will live my life,” says Rich.
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