Sophia Brown Dean, AKA, the Chocolate Angel, the Big Brownie and the Gentle Giant, was my first service angel. She was not trained to be a service dog and probably would not have meet the standards to officially wear a service vest. Yet, she trained herself to look out for me when I became ill. She would always notice that I was having a down day. During those times, she would remain by by side. Always a constant reminder that should I fall or need help, she was there.
105 Pounds of Cuddly Muscle
To begin the story about Sophia Brown Dean, one must start by describing her first dog buddy, Apollo. He was a beautiful golden retriever. He was 105 pounds of cuddly muscle. He was one of the most lovable goofy beings, I have had the privilege and honor to have as a four legged furry family member.
When our dog AC Dean left the family to return to Source, Apollo was quite the grieving guy. She had been his constant companion, had taught him all the ropes and had even house broke him (the only dog I did not have to train myself. AC was very clean and did not approve of him going in the house.) She left a huge hole in his life. He was depressed.
Sophie Brown Comes From a Swirl of Chocolate
We all wanted another dog and we found an ad in the paper. We called and the message cracked us up, ‘If you are calling about the 8 pooping puppies, please leave a message.’ We did and soon after, we got into the car and traveled a couple of hours away to look at a group of chocolate lab puppies. From the swirl of chocolate, Sophia Brown was chosen. Apollo seemed very enthused and happy. The ride home was great. However, the initial positive reaction wore off when he realized she was quite a handful. He would look up at us in confusion. He seemed to say, ‘what am I supposed to do with this highly active creature. She’s driving me crazy.’
After about a month, Apollo feel in deep love with Sophie. They became constant companions and buddies. His spirits were high, again. They came to Taos, New Mexico together. Apollo strutted around like a king, smelling the garden flowers, hiking and swimming in the forest. He would do his daily circle around the yard to make sure that all was well.
We noticed after 13 years of goofy love and companionship, Apollo was getting older. Sophia was still very young. She was a very active professional ballplayer who also loved to romp with other dogs. She needed more romping time than Apollo could provide at his old age. It appeared Sophie definitely needed younger buddy.
Rio Luna Washes to Shore
This time we didn’t even have to drive anywhere to go seeking for a new family member. We had planned to go to the local shelter one day, but we ran out of time. That very day, when we came home, there was a puppy in the yard that had come down the spring wash. That particular year the wash was very full and turbulent. We later found out that she had traveled about 2 miles down the river until she found a place to land on our property. We named her Rio and she immediately fit right in. She was the first puppy I had that did not even cry through her first night. She would just sleep or stare at us in awe. We were soon to realize that Sophie had not shown us what neediness really was.
Rio was hyperactive and required lots of affection. Apollo thought she was pretty cool because she like to hunt like he did. Sophie was never a hunter to his dismay.
Apollo returned to source soon after Rio came into our lives. Sophie missed him, but Rio was such a distraction, she quickly adapted to Apollo being gone. Rio being so needy and constantly demanding Sophie’s attention seemed to cause a shift within Sophie. She quickly grew up. She became less needy. She became a nurturing, mothering caretaker. As Sophie became the caretaker, Rio returned the favor by being her protector. No one but Rio was allowed to growl at Sophie.
Rio and Sophie were the greeters for our art retreat and bed and breakfast. They would both hang out in the studio, while we worked on our art pieces. They would escort people into the gallery or entertain the guests with their goofy romping antics. They would hang out at the wood fire kiln with all the other potters. They even made their own pottery creations and we still have their paw prints on tiles and Rio’s sculptures she made when pieces of clay would fall on the ground. Life was good.
Then, I became very ill due to the various autoimmune conditions. I was no longer able to work or sculpt, let alone continue the multiple tasks required to continue the business. I was unable to even care for myself, at times and needed others to feed me. I could not care for my dogs. If it had not been for Karen, I would’ve had to give them up.
Rio continued to be a handful. However, Sophie began to turn her care-taking to me from Rio. We would be on a hike and Karen and Rio would be off gallivanting all over the place. Sophie would always make sure she kept her eye on me. She would walk off, but she would constantly turned back and look at me. On the days when I was having a really rough time, she would not even do that. She would stick by my side.
When it was her time to return to source, I experienced such an incredible loss. I no longer had a four legged Angel watching out for me. I believe it was a result of that loss that I begin to read more about service dogs. It was the idea of a service dog that helped me recover to a more optimum level of health.
The Quest for a Four Legged Service Angel Begins
Since service dogs require a huge commitment, I needed to get healthier to even consider one. I had fantasies about training Rio to become one, but I knew that I did not have the skills to do so. I also was concerned about her hyperactivity. Since she was so attached to me, I also knew she would not accept another dog as my service dog.
With Sophie gone, we sought a buddy for Rio. Sunny, a white lab, became the perfect companion. He also appeared to be able to be trainable to be a service dog one day. I had the thought that if he came into the household as a puppy, that Rio would be more accepting.
Rio did accept Sunny, but it took a few months. Just as Rio was Sophie’s protector, she soon became Sunny’s, as well. Although we didn’t go into public as often as we used to because of my health, Sunny seemed to be doing fine and to enjoyed walking around in public. However, when it was Rio’s turn to return to source, Sunny developed severe public anxiety. Since one of the major requirements for meeting the standards of a service dog is to be in all sorts of situations in public and to remain calm, we needed more help to get Sunny up to standard.
I had become stronger and healthier through energy medicine and was ready to think more seriously about the service dog process. I contacted an agency that had a owner/self training program for service dogs. When I describe Sunny’s issues, they felt he would never be able to meet the standard. They also were concerned about my multiple autoimmune conditions and having down days. They did not think that I had the physical capabilities to do the training and highly recommended that I consider getting a fully trained official service dog.
I briefly continued to work with this agency to achieve that. However, I found I always felt very disabled and depressed after speaking with the staff. After my last phone call with this agency, I became very depressed. I cried for hours and was to the point of giving up the whole idea of ever having a service dog.
Sophie Comes in a Dream
Then, Sophie came to me in a dream. Sophie told me that there was a service dog out there for me. She told me that she was leading the way and that maybe these people that were making me cry were not the people to help me. Since they were such a great agency in good standing, I found I was beating myself up thinking it couldn’t be them. Therefore, it must be me. I forgot that there can be good people and good agencies but that does not mean that they’re the ones that you are supposed to co-create with. Sophie also told me in the dream to get on the web and search for the agency for me. The agency was there.
I woke up with renewed hope and ready to begin the quest, again. I trusted the dream and my gut that I needed to let go of the other agency and seek one that was more suited for my needs. I got on the web and that very day contacted Little Angels Service Dogs. I spoke with the Executive Director, Katie González. She made me feel so handy capable in that conversation. I immediately filled out my application and was approved the next day.
Almost Too Good to Be True – Little Angels Service Dogs
This agency seemed almost too good to be true. The testimonials on the website were phenomenal. The photos of the dogs in training and the happy faces of the recipients when the dogs graduated were uplifting and inspiring. Not only could this agency help me in obtaining a service dog, they also had many other benefits. They could help us with training Sunny and assist us with his public anxiety. They would allowed me to volunteer and fund-raise through their nonprofit. They even provided a fundraising guide to help you come up with ideas.
Little Angels Service Dogs happens to be located in San Diego, California. I was required to attend a conference to continue my certification in energy medicine. Since this conference was scheduled in San Diego, California, we packed up the car and the dog and went off to check out this agency that almost sounded too good to be true.
We arrived in San Diego and Sunny had 4 lessons with Chris Beaty. After 3 lessons, Sunny was able to go into public. He still has some difficulties at loud concerts with lots of people, but he is able to handle himself well in most public situations. I can now walk him in public without him potentially hurting me with anxious darting. Although he is able to do this and many tasks a service dog does in his own home, he may never be able to do these things in public. Plus, he appears to have some anxiety on my down days and seems to prefer to have another dog take the lead in service.
I Will Not Give Up Hope, Sophie!
I am thankful for all the dogs I have been honored with in my life. I am glad for all the comfort, love, giggles, and joy along the journey they provided. I am especially grateful to Sophia Brown for so many things. For teaching me how much hope and service a four-legged angel can provide, for intuitively knowing and being by my side during my down days, and for sending me the dream to not give up hope for my service dog who is out there waiting for me.
I will not give up hope, Sophie! I promise.
Thanks for reading! And don’t forget, I have been approved for a mobility assistance dog through Little Angels Service Dogs, a 501 (C) (3) non-profit agency. We are volunteering to help raise the $10,000.00 (the average cost for the 600 hours training per service dog). Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Little Angels Service Dogs, no matter how small. We cannot thank you enough for your help, even it is a good thought, love, or a prayer sent our way!
You can do this by clicking the link below and scroll down to the section about me, Pamala and hit the donation button below my story.
Thanks and many blessings,