Dogs Change Everything: Ellen Faces Ehlers Danlos and Sarcoidosis with Maggie by Her Side

August 7, 2014

My name is Ellen Lenox Smith, a sixty-four year old from Rhode Island, living with two incurable conditions – Ehlers Danlos and Sarcoidosis. I have lost my career of teaching, can no longer continue as a master swimmer, nor continue coaching the high school swim team. Cutting food is gone, walking long distance, walking on sand, lifting my arms up high, and many other things. But, I am alive!!!

If it weren’t for deciding to apply for a service dog back in 2009, I would not be writing this story. When I was matched with Maggie, my small black lab from NEADS, I was living in a wheelchair and about to have another surgery in hopes of getting back on these legs. On Thanksgiving morning, 2009, just six days home with her, I was woken up by Maggie up on the bed, licking me over and over. As I began to wake up, I realized I felt just horrible due to the fact that the trachea was bent and cutting off a normal air flow, despite using my bi-pap breathing machine. Somehow, this amazing dog sensed I was in trouble and saved me.

Today, this relationship continues on. Sometime, each week, I have a reminder in the night to reposition. She continues to let me know that I need to move and let that air flow again. I love this dog so much and can never thank her enough to keeping me here in life……..she is my lifeline!


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