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The Darby & Brigadoon Service Dog Cruz Story - By Darby, A Client (2020)

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014, and after my first major flare-up, my mobility went downhill. Pre-MS, I was running 5k and 10k races, but within a few short years, I was using a cane, walker, or motorized scooter for any activity outside the home. My legs now go numb when I walk more than a minute or two, my steps get slower and shorter, and it becomes a frustrating and lonely experience just trying to get through a grocery store. I started reading about mobility-trained service dogs and thought maybe a service dog was right for me. After researching options, I chose Brigadoon as the organization that felt right for me.

After spending some time on the waitlist, I was invited to Brigadoon to meet Cruz for the first time. First impression: he was a BIG BOY! He ran in with his sweet happy face, and reality hit that this was actually going to happen. I would have a best friend to help me walk. A very big best friend, at that! Never having owned a dog as an adult, it was a little intimidating, but I was so excited. Shopping is what I do when excited, and in the next several weeks came several orders from Amazon and with stuff for my new boy. 😊 It was like preparing to bring home a new baby.

My first night home with Cruz was a few days before Team Training, so we could get to know each other. The “new baby” experience continued. Honestly, I had no idea what to do with a dog. I was up all night the first night with him because I was not sure what to expect when he slept or how often he would need to be taken outside. I kept asking questions like: “What’s he doing?” “What’s that sound he is making?” “How long is normal for him to sleep?” Luckily, it became clear after a couple of days that he would happily sleep through the night, as long as he was up in time for breakfast! I won’t ever need an alarm clock again.

Team training at Brigadoon was incredible. Not only was I taught everything I needed to know to own a dog; I was also shown how to understand dog language and take on the important task of his continued training. The experience was definitely worth my time and helped me become more comfortable working with Cruz. We graduated from training together and went home to start our new life! And what a life it is. Life with Cruz has been transformative in so many ways.

Cruz gives me confidence in getting around. It helps even more than I imagined having a buddy to hang on to when we are out and about. I can walk all the way through Costco with him – even airports from the parking lot to my gate – something I haven’t been able to do for a couple years without a wheelchair. We have taken 3 airplane trips since December 2019 and he has been fantastic for all of them. He gets me up and moving (super important for staying mobile with MS), and keeps me stable and balanced. He helps when I drop things. He lays on my legs at night which helps when they ache. He never complains about how slow I walk and doesn’t mind snuggling on the couch with me on days I am not feeling well. Cruz is not a robot and has plenty of “dog moments” too. He cracks me up with his goofy, sweet, personality. They say laughter is healing, and he creates plenty of opportunities for that as well!

We go everywhere together, and he’s my Very Best Boy. Starting the process to be matched with him through Brigadoon was one of my best decisions ever. Cruz has given me so much joy... and so much independence! I am so thankful for all who helped raise him, train him, train ME, and give me this opportunity to have Cruz in my world.

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