If you ask just about any dog lover what it is that they love so much about dogs, they’re practically obligated to mention the phrase “unconditional love”. Unlike most things – although I might be biased – I am inclined to classify this as fact, not opinion. Even puppies who have been raised in abusive homes are known to try to protect the very humans who hurt them.
Naturally, this is important to anyone. It is human nature to want to be accepted and loved. As a person with a disability I will take that one step (tire rotation?) further. No matter how great my support system is – more on that later – there will always be parts of my disability that are inconvenient to those around me. Do you know who has never cared even one bit about my disability? My dog. Actually, any of my dogs. I’m pretty sure it would be literally impossible for them to care any less – and that is an amazing feeling.
Growing up, even before I used my wheelchair full time, I had a dog. He adjusted very quickly as I moved from a manual wheelchair to an electric chair; some might see this as an anomaly. I thought so too…except my post-high school roommate’s dog, who didn’t grow up with wheelchairs, never had an issue with it either. In fact, without much coaching she learned to place her front paws on my lap so I could easily pet her. Everyone I knew was blown away by the fact that my brand new Pomeranian puppy taught himself to ride around on my foot plates. I thought somehow this made him special…except my new chihuahua puppy taught himself the same thing. To them, the wheelchair wasn’t odd or inconvenient; it was just part of the human who they loved so much.
The fact of the matter is that there’s no human that could ever be as selflessly loving as a dog. It’s not in our nature to overlook “flaws”; it’s something that we generally have to work towards. Dogs, though? We don’t deserve dogs…but I’m sure glad we’ve got ’em.
Side note: Basically this whole post was an excuse to share pictures of my dogs…because, well, dogs.
In 2011, a friend of mine who knew I was interested in photography suggested I check out Katelyn James, a young wedding photographer. At that time I had no idea how important Katelyn would end up being in my life.
For about 3 years after that, I was convinced that I was destined to be a wedding photographer. Not only that, I was going to be the next coming of Katelyn James. (Take it easy on me, I was in the middle of an early onset quarter life crisis.) It didn’t matter that I wasn’t physically capable of being a full time wedding photographer, or that my personality was entirely different from hers. All I was focused on was how much her blog posts (this is the one that started it all) and her photos inspired me, and that I wanted to do that for others. It wasn’t until I had been at my current office job for over a year, and gone through the depression associated with realizing that my disability would prevent me from achieving this dream, that it hit me.
My purpose is not to be a photographer. It is not to model my personality off of someone I didn’t know beyond their internet persona. My purpose is much different, but equally as important. For years people have thanked me for the small bits of insight into the life of someone with a disability that I offered through my social media. The time has come for me to transform that into something more meaningful.
After 5 years, I was able to meet Katelyn and hear her speak just over a week ago, and she said something that really resonated with me: pain has purpose. My struggles with my disability (and with life in general) offer many teachable moments for myself and for others. I truly hope that by sharing both the good and the bad parts of my story I am able to help even one person – with or without a disability. I’m fairly certain that that is my purpose.