ABOUT RETRIEVING INDEPENDENCE
Retrieving Independence is an incredible organization based in Nashville, TN dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities improve their quality of life through the assistance of highly trained service dogs. You can read more about their organization and follow their social media accounts by visiting their website here.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Raising and training a service dog is a very expensive process. When I started looking for a program for a new service dog, the cost ranged from $30,000 to $60,000. Service dog training is a very extensive, specific, and long process, so the cost although staggering is accurate. As a non- profit, Retrieving Independence is able to cover half the cost through generous donors and the hard work of volunteers, but the other half of the cost the recipient covers. I have to raise $15,000. It is a daunting task and I am aware I am asking a lot of my community. If you are able to donate, thank you for your generosity, every dollar makes a difference. If you are able to share this link with someone who may be in a place to financially help, thank you for advocating on my behalf. If you are able to share this on a social media platform, thank you for making space for me. You can visit my fundraising page here to donate or by clicking the button below.
MY DISABILITY & THE HELP OF A SERVICE DOG
I want to start off by reminding you that not all disabilities are visible or look the same. My disability can vary in severity from day to day. Some days will be manageable with mild symptoms and others I will be in too much pain to move, too weak to walk, or dealing with debilitating anxiety and depression. Sometimes I can handle talking to people or walking to get mail from my mailbox and other days just hearing noise outside my apartment will send me into a panic attack. Every day is different and exhausting.
For those of you who don’t know, I struggle with a few different things, but my main disability is C-PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are not familiar with what that is, it is when someone experiences prolonged, repeated or multiple forms of trauma. Because of the trauma I experienced throughout my childhood, I also struggle with dissociative symptoms, major depressive disorder, disordered eating, and have developed physical symptoms as a result of my trauma like chronic pain, migraine, and fatigue that have limited my mobility.
A few years after I graduated college, I started to work through some of my childhood trauma when my ptsd was re triggered after I was sexually assaulted in my apartment. I was living in an odd state of fear with no safe place as I was afraid of being outside but also incredibly triggered by the apartment in which I was assaulted. I felt trapped. This only worsened as the pandemic hit and I felt cut off. I had some dark days early on in quarantine/shutdown and I was so lucky to have my dog Brix by my side making me laugh, comforting me, calming me down, and getting me outside every day. Losing him was devasting. Without him I struggle to even make it outside my apartment complex alone and being in public is impossible as my anxiety has worsened, and my panic attacks have increased in frequency and intensity. The little restful sleep I used to get is now nonexistent. It has been a rough time living without his assistance and companionship and it has shown me that I’m going to need help if I want to be able to function in the world again. I can’t rely on the few people I trust to be with me 24/7 so I am looking forward to the independence a new service dog will afford me. Initially when I started the service dog application process, it felt like I would be replacing Brixi and it felt painfully wrong, but now I am seeing it as a continuation of the work that Brix started. I would never be where I am today without him. He was the dog who started it all. He just had to hand off the leash earlier than I expected or wanted. Being paired with a new service dog is my best shot at regaining my independence, continuing to live the life I have hoped for myself, and most importantly continuing to heal. I want to be able to leave my apartment again, go on walks, enjoy public spaces, visit with friends at the coffee shop they want to meet up at, and maybe eventually go back into my workspace outside of my apartment every once in a while.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME
Hi, I’m Hannah. I’m 28 years old and I’m an artist and illustrator living in Tennessee. I love painting landscapes and beautiful scenery as a means for personal therapeutic benefit but also as a way to bring comfort to other people’s spaces and safe places. I have always found that nature brings me a sense of peace that nothing else can. I have enjoyed bringing my love of art to healthcare settings. I think that the arts are incredibly beneficial to the healing process and to healthcare/treatment spaces themselves. I am currently incredibly honored to be a contract artist for my city’s local children’s hospital where I have created art pieces and installations for clinic/outpatient settings, hospital spaces, and research/office areas. I strongly believe that the art that hangs on the walls of the hospital should be intentional and can support positive outcomes for patients. It is my dream to be able to continue this work and hopefully I will have a chance to work with other hospitals and healthcare settings in the future.
As for anything else about me, I’m not too exciting currently for someone who doesn't leave their apartment. But I’m still able to crack jokes about my situation and my dry sarcastic personality still perseveres. I love listening to cello and orchestral music, doodling on my iPad, painting, solving crossword puzzles, putting together actual puzzles, sitting in my rocking chair on my porch, attempting to teach myself to play the violin to no avail, catching up on my favorite podcasts, and of course spending time with my wonderful friends and neighbors who so kindly visit me at my apartment. Before I started experiencing physical limitations and decreased mobility with my disability, I loved running, hiking, and exploring with my previous service dog. I hope I can build back up to some semblance of that kind of activity with a new service dog.
TO MY BRIXI BOY...
thank you for helping me become the person I am today.
Brix was my service dog but also my best friend, my partner, my support system, my family. It was me and Brixi. As long as I had him by my side everything was okay.
When Brix put on his vest and went out into public with me I knew I could count on him to help me cope with the stress of being around people. He went to grocery stores, restaurants, offices etc, as well as joined me on road trips across the country, and even flew on airplanes with me. Without his vest on he still did his job. When he was at home and there was noise in the stairwell, he would sit or lay by the front door to make me feel safe. When my breathing would become slightly irregular he would come to me and nose his way into my space. When I cried he came and sat with me and licked my tears away and let me hug him until my sobs subsided. When I had days where my body was in too much pain to move he would lay with me on the couch, snuggled right up against me. When I would lose my balance walking, he let me hold onto his harness and he’d help lead me back up the stairs to my apartment or help me get up off the floor when I was drained of energy. He was so in tune with my emotions and could sense when I was getting anxious before I could and he’d be pawing his way up into my lap to provide pressure therapy to calm me down before a panic attack set in. At night, if there was thunder he would quietly walk into my room to make sure I was ok and lay down next to my bed in case I needed him. If I woke up from a nightmare and I was too scared to move or speak I could snap my fingers and he’d come to me. He was such a smart pup and I owe him so much for everything he did for me. He loved with a fierce loyalty that I will never fully be able to explain.