MEET EMMA & CABBAGE
As a kid, Emma had the world at her fingertips. She was smart, she was strong, and she had the confidence to take her wherever she wanted to go. She flew through elementary school and most of middle school as a star student and athlete.
Nothing could stop her.
Then, Emma got too sick to run and her childhood “tummy trouble” turned into something debilitating. Eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, Emma missed over half of her 10th and 12th grade years of high school. By her senior year, she was struggling with fainting from dysautonomia and convulsive syncope – eventually being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia.
Despite missing so much school, Emma graduated with an IB Diploma and was accepted into American University in Washington D.C.
When Emma started college at American University in Washington D.C., she knew it was going to be hard but not this hard. During her first semester at American University, Emma honestly didn’t know if she would be able to stay at school due to continuously progressing symptoms. In the spring, she was in and out of the hospital with adrenal atrophy, and her joints began slipping out of socket, causing her to fall, faint, and have convulsive spells.
“I was afraid to leave my dorm room because I’d be afraid I’d fall or have a migraine in public and not be able to get back to my dorm,” Emma said.
Emma knew she wanted to get a service dog. After some research, she had only found a few service dog programs that were far away and were not what Emma was looking for. Eventually, Emma gave up hope on owning a service dog, not knowing if she would even be able to stay in school.
In Spring of 2019, Emma’s mother called her.
“I just opened up the Hoover Sun,” she told Emma. “There’s a place here in Birmingham that trains service dogs.”
When Emma read the Hoover Sun article about trainer Abigail Witthauer and the Roverchase Raisers, it felt like God answering her prayers. It was exactly what Emma had been looking for. The Roverchase Service Dog School is a smaller program that doesn’t mass produce service dogs, ensuring quality training and optimal matching between handlers and service dogs relationship. The school is also located here in Birmingham which allowed Emma to be involved in her service dog’s training while she was home over the summer.
At the beginning of the summer, Roverchase service-dog-in-training Cabbage and Emma met for the first time. It was love at first sight. Cabbage came in and came straight to Emma and never left her side. They were matched later in June.
Cabbage is a one-year-old golden retriever whose dad is already a service dog. His biggest task will be bracing to assist Emma with balance to prevent as many falls as possibles, and help her get up when she does fall. Cabbage also will be able to perform daily tasks such as turning on and off lights, opening and closing doors and drawers, and retrieving objects.
Cabbage will finish his mobility support and retrieval training as a service dog before becoming Emma’s full-time service dog in January 2020.
In the meantime, Emma will continue her public affairs studies at American University and fundraising the $15,000 needed in order for Cabbage to become hers.