Tuesday Evening, September 13, 2016 / 11 Elul, 5776
by Jackie Kligerman
I love animals – especially cats and dogs. I think that we humble humans have much to learn from these amazing creatures. All they ask from us is to care for their basic needs such as food, shelter and maintaining good health. And in return for this we receive unconditional love, strong loyalty and a non-judgmental relationship. At one time or another we have all heard stories of the heroic actions of family pets in saving their owners from dangerous situations. When I retired and was looking for volunteer work that was meaningful and enjoyable, I applied to the Guide Dog Foundation whose national headquarters is in the town where I live.
I have had many wonderful experiences working with these beautiful animals, and the people who train them for their work and especially the persons with disabilities who receive them as helpers. I have been witness to dogs opening doors for people in wheelchairs, helping blind or visually impaired people safely cross a busy street or learning to awaken a sleeping veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome from night terrors due to experiences in combat. These dogs are thinkers and problem-solvers. They react with joy when they complete tasks for their owners and are rewarded for their efforts. And I feel the joy of their owners who become more independent and more confident of their abilities rather than hampered by their disabilities when their dogs assist them in completing the basic tasks of daily life that those of us who are well-abled take so for granted.
The courage of the people I have met who are blind or visually impaired, physically disabled or suffering from an emotional difficulty that impacts their daily functioning is incredible and inspirational. Whether their difficulties began at birth or developed over time or happened suddenly, they live their lives fully without restrictions as they utilize their capabilities and compensate for their disabilities. I see the hand of G-d in these wonderful creatures who assist them and the relationship amongst people and animals and our environment. So as we reflect on our lives during the month of Elul as we should in preparation for the Days of Awe, I consider myself lucky to be a part of the lives of these amazing animals and their grateful owners and am so thankful for my own abilities and blessings.