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.
Lifted up by a combination of stubborn determination and her religious faith Amy Chally and her service dog present an inspiring and educational look at capable canines and the work they can do to lighten the burden of those of us who tackle unusual challenges. Gerald A. Metz, M.D
What a great job on your book!! I learned so much from it! It helped me realize what not to do out in public when service dogs are working!! An eye opener! Ron
I just read your book & absolutely loved it!!! You did a remarkable job on it. It reminds me of the phrase "To dream of the person you'd like to be, is to waste the person you are." (You can use that in your sequel.). I love how positive of a person you are. I'm sure anyone with a disability would feel good after reading your book & giving them hope that they can achieve things too. Many great days going forward!!! Sandie
Amy's book is wonderful. She spoke at a therapy dog club meeting I belong to and is so inspiring. I really recommend her book to all ages. And if you ever get a chance to hear her speak you to will find that she is an incredible person. Sue
What a wonderfully engaging book. With truth and heartfelt emotions. Amy is such an inspiring young woman and I have the deepest respect and admiration for her. If I was in her shoes, I'm not sure I would be as strong and optimistic as she is. The love she and Yazzen shared can never be equaled. Claudette
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