Giving Paws: Having a Service Dog for a Hidden Disability
by Martha L. Thompson
Koehler Books

"What I did not anticipate were all the other challenges that came with having a four-footed assistant by my side."

After her father’s death in a car crash, Martha sinks into a dark period of depression and self-doubt that reignites the “childhood demon” of her anorexia nervosa. As she battles these conditions, she recognizes the healing power of her dogs and animals, thus motivating herself to improve physically and mentally. She abandons her acting career and studies and volunteers at a zoo that leads to a new career. Then a doctor suggests getting a service dog to help her manage difficulties with her illnesses, a surprising idea for Martha.

Shortly after the loss of two of her dogs, a black and tan miniature Dachshund-Chihuahua named Henry comes into Martha’s life. Though Henry proves a worthy candidate as a service dog, becoming the first approved service dog for employees at the zoo, Martha is mired by confusion and incidental attraction to Henry that becomes intrusive. As she works to improve her health, Martha finds kinship and inspiration in unlikely places, and with Henry by her side, she faces obstacles that only motivate her to take another step toward new chapters of her life.

Though some disabilities are not outwardly visible, like blindness or paralysis, Martha’s disability is real, and she gracefully shares her story in this memoir. She delves into the months of training with Henry, the complex medical issues, her hidden shame, and the uninvited criticisms expressed by others. But Martha is a strong, kindred spirit who doesn’t allow herself to get beaten down, despite the negative voices in her head. She researches and advocates to overcome stumbling blocks, forming powerful connections within the community and discovering more about herself along the way. Hers is a beautiful story, and animal lovers, the disabled, and anyone else will no doubt celebrate it and be made better because of it.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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