In this article, Sally Neely Nix recounts her recent experiences with her Highland Canine Connect Service Dog, Jon Snow, and working with the HCC team.
Be sure to check out more of Sally’s writing over at her blog: The Slow Lane.
Knowledge, Compassion and Friendship
by Sally Neely Nix
I live with an invisible illness that has impacted everything and everyone around me. I tend to shy away from publicly communicating all that I manage daily because I like to focus on the positive and what I have overcome.
What you do not see behind the social media posts, or when I am out in public, is all that goes on beneath the surface of my smile. I struggle daily due to two spinal surgeries, five brain surgeries, a rare autoimmune disease, and I consistently endure unimaginable pain. There are regular infusions and painful procedures I must go through to help manage it all. Additionally, I work hard on nutrition, physical therapy, and keeping my mind strong and healthy. Even though I do all I can do to manage my major health issues I found myself needing more assistance.
On February 3, 2023, my service dog, Jon Snow, and Highland Canine Connect permanently became part of my world and it changed for the better. Jon has completely transformed my life and given me the freedom and independence I was missing for over ten years. For a couple of years, I researched service dogs and discussed with my entire support system ways I could benefit from one. I was well aware of Jon’s potential to help me, though I did not expect the support, compassion, and friendship that came as a bonus. Jon over delivered on what I had hoped for in a service dog, but what I did not anticipate was the effect the people of Highland Canine Connect (HCC) would have on me.
From the moment I met Erin Purgason I felt at ease and in great hands. Not only did I make a connection with Jon, but it was also the same way with Erin. I felt seen, understood, and more than just medical issues on paper. I knew immediately I was being cared for by a person dedicated to changing the lives of people in need. Erin’s vast training knowledge and dedication to matching people in need with highly trained service animals is a gift. When working with Jason Purgason I was equally amazed by his dedication to helping people who may often be overlooked. Jason is most definitely innovative and it is a quality driven by compassion. Every single person associated with HCC has the same drive to make a difference through canine connections.
My relationship with Jon is a true partnership – one of mutual love and respect. For two months we have worked together on skills and acclimating to a new environment. It has taken consistency, dedication, and a lot of patience and love on both our parts. You cannot have a service dog come into your life and not work with them daily – we work on improving existing skills and introducing new tasks into the mix. We also have sessions with Erin, Jason and their talented training interns in our home a few times each month to further develop our success. As a team, Jon and I have done extremely well navigating this big change in both of our lives.
Jon is not a wizard who magically makes my problems vanish – he is a lifeline in helping me do all that I want and need to do to live life somewhat normally. Jon does some of the most amazing tasks and provides support when I am frequently alone. In such a short time he has gotten to know me and has now begun to intuitively react. Jon helps with my mobility, and on days when I am struggling and in excruciating pain he gives me purpose to keep moving. I knew there was a part of me missing and I had accepted my limitations, but I had no idea what I would regain with Jon and the support of HCC.
I am an extremely fortunate person. My support system is strong and I have a team of the most knowledgeable, compassionate physicians on the planet. Now I have Jon Snow and the people of Highland Canine Connect in my corner, and we are a team thriving off togetherness.