Most of us take for granted the ability to pull open a door, get up from our couch, or pick up a dropped pen. But for Amy Chally, these daily tasks were a challenge, until a very special friend came into her life.
Come along as Yazzen recounts an adventurous tale of his journey from a tiny pup to Amy’s invaluable partner in crime. Then, continue on the journey as Amy shares how with courage, faith, the love of her family and the assistance of her furry friend, she overcomes obstacles she faces in life.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Hi! I’m Amy, a thirty-four-year-old licensed social worker with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, a condition caused by trauma to the brain, usually during or shortly after birth. All four of my limbs are affected by this condition, and because of high muscle tone (muscles that are constantly tight and contracted), I struggle to move and control the muscles in my arms and legs. As a result, my limbs are often stiff, and they don’t always do what I want them to do. I can walk with a walker, but I utilize a power chair and a service dog for independence and mobility in my daily life.
Hi! I’m Yazzen, a black Labrador–golden retriever crossbreed, trained by Canine Companions for Independence and the first member of Team Chally. As her service dog, I was trained to help Amy increase her independence while reducing her reliance on others. Amy and I worked and played together from July 31, 2005 until July 7, 2014. This is our story, divided into two parts. Part one is my story, from the time I was born to my life with Amy. Part two is Amy’s story about her choice to get an assistance dog and how she chooses to delight in diversity and defy her disability. I hope you learn a few things from reading both stories. First, I hope you learn how dogs like me help individuals with physical challenges and enrich their lives. Second, I hope you learn that people who are dealing with differences are not much different from you.
MY QUEST FOR A LIFE WITH A PURPOSE
My life was planned for me before it even began. My parents, Elodie and Hanford II, were breeders for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). CCI is an organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs, free of charge, to children, adults, and veterans with disabilities, including but not limited to cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome. CCI does not receive any government funding to cover the cost of training us, and it costs $45,000 to train and place just one dog. The organization breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and crosses of the two breeds. They train their puppies as facility dogs, hearing dogs, skilled companion dogs, or service dogs, depending on the needs of the applicant.1
As breeders, my parents’ job was to bring puppies into the world, with the hope that those puppies would help others live more independent lives. My siblings—Yassy, Yvette, Yeena, Yoki II, Yakime, Yuma, Yolie, Yogi II—and I were born on November 23, 2003, in Silicon Valley, California.
Every CCI litter is assigned a letter of the alphabet and given names that are short and easy to say, but are very different from the commands we may learn. For instance, a CCI dog could never be named “Doug,” because “Doug” is too similar to “tug.” Even though my name is relatively short, people always misunderstand Amy when she says it, so she often has to spell it. The names can be chosen by the breeder caretakers, the general public, or by CCI, but the organization has the final say on all the litter names. You may be wondering how I got my name. I can tell you that CCI most likely named me after someone with the last name of Yazzen who donated to the cause (Larin and Cortez 2013).
We were the Y litter, my mom’s fifth and final litter before she stopped working for CCI. We were born at her home and lived there with her and her (breeder caretaker) family until we were eight weeks old. Then her family had the difficult job of taking us back to CCI’s national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California, and saying good-bye.
1 Author’s note: Facility dogs are dogs partnered with handlers that work in various settings, such as courts, schools, or hospitals. Hearing dogs are partnered with deaf or hard-of-hearing persons who need to be alerted to specific sounds. Skilled companion and service dogs are discussed in Amy’s Story.
Excerpted from "Making Independence Happen, One Paw at a Time" by Amy Chally. Copyright © 2016 by Amy Chally. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Amazon Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars
Captivating and Inspiring By Susan M.on October 16, 2016
This book is a page-turner - not the edge-of-your-seat variety, but in a way that grips you from the beginning because you quickly care about the author and her canine companion, and want to learn more. It is not easy to write a book that is readable and interesting for children as well as adults, but Ms. Chally has flawlessly accomplished this task. She begins with the story of her service dog, Yazzen, using his perspective to explain the journey from birth to training to becoming the author's canine companion. In the second half, we learn about Ms. Chally's journey. She explains in a friendly, conversational tone, what it means to live with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, her trials and victories, and how her service dog helped her overcome obstacles and enhanced her independence. This is a fascinating and inspiring story that would make a great read for anyone in middle school on up to senior citizens.
Great book and an easy read for any age! By Jeff Nydegger on July 30, 2016
Great book and an easy read for any age (both my 10 year old and 7 year were able to read it and understand it). The author takes you through her life as a young girl as well as an adult and the struggles she's had to overcome. You also learn about the extensive training that a service dog has to go through.
Love, love, love it! If you haven't read yet, why not?! By Amazon Customer on July 11, 2016
Uplifting, entertaining, and even educational! I admire the author's wit and courage and urge everyone to read this book. This heartwarming and interesting story has helped me in my understanding of how to best interact with persons of unique ability and gave me some ideas for training my own dogs, too. This is a must read!
I recommend this book By Nancy Nixon on October 13, 2016
I recommend this book. Great author and I also enjoyed Amy's presentation in person. I love Amy's story and her enthusiasm. Service dogs are special and have an important job helping those who need them to live a more independent life style.
Trials may get you down but never give up By Primrose on October 13, 2016
I personally know the author but learned so much more about her by reading the book. Yazzen's story was really good and Amy captured his thoughts very well. Good testimony of persevering through trials and seeing the good things. God is good
An honest look at struggles and successes of a very... By Amazon Customer on May 15, 2016
An honest look at struggles and successes of a very talented young lady and her dog, I'm sure we will hear more about her in the future, a champion for people with disabilities
love, faith and perseverance By Vicki C.on May 2, 2016
Heartwarming story of life, love, faith and perseverance. Gives insight into the life of someone with a disability. Their trials and triumphs!.
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