My name is Jessica and I’m 35 years old. I live in Florida but I was born and raised in Connecticut. Two years ago I had a severe stroke that completely changed my life. Prior to the stroke I operated a small business selling fiber art that I made and had been educated and worked as a lawyer up north. I was in the process of studying for the bar exam to practice law in Florida when the stroke happened. Before the stroke, I was extremely independent. Now I have a number of disabilities that impact my ability to lead a normal life - very poor balance and stability, double vision, completely numb left arm and hand, limited mobility and dexterity in the parts of my body I can feel, constant dizziness, and more. I’m doing my best with physical and occupational therapy to regain whatever abilities I can, but an assistance dog would really help me to move forward and keep making progress. One of the toughest things I deal with is a lack of balance. Combined with double vision and dizziness, I have a really hard time feeling safe when I leave the house for appointments or to do errands. I’m very fearful of falling, and having a dog that can help me stabilize, navigate uneven surfaces, and be aware of my surroundings would be life-changing. Sensory overload is a part of my daily life now, but partnering with a dog that can help me focus on balancing and walking by being aware of what I can’t be a huge step in regaining my independence and feeling safer. There are also days where my brain has trouble connecting to my body so help with picking things up, carrying things, and getting household activities done would be amazing. In addition to the physical help an assistance dog could provide, the emotional support would be crucial as well. Aphasia as a result of the stroke has made it really hard for me to verbally communicate with people, so I get really lonely sometimes. It would be such a blessing to have company and having had dogs in the past, I know how deeply that relationship can improve a person’s wellbeing. I believe that with an assistance dog, I will be able to be more active outside of my home, feel more secure, and live a much fuller life despite my limitations. And as an added bonus, the companionship would make my new normal a much happier experience.

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