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May 26, 2017
Missed By: Laura Otis and everyone who met her


A Generous Donation Was Made By

Pam & Mike Becker - She was a light that shone brightly. A love of a dog.

Zoe, Forever in My Heart

Dear All,

On May 26, 2017, my best friend, 24/7 partner, incredible service dog, loyal companion, and loving family passed away.  Zoe was my everything and my heart is truly broken. I love her more than I have ever loved in my life. The words are painful to pen. 

The loss of an assistance dog, though no less painful than that of a pet, is different in some very profound ways. My bond with Zoe was extremely deep and we were as one. The help which she provided me so eagerly, her intuitive ability to sense my needs, and her absolute loyalty allowed me to maneuver through life with greater independence and confidence. I am lost without her.

Zoe was my assistant. She was very smart and needed a job to keep her happy.  She eagerly assisted me with the many tasks which she was trained to do. Whether it was picking up my cane, taking my socks out of the dryer, helping remove items of clothing, or retrieving a myriad of dropped or needed items, she was enthusiastic and willing. In her later years, Zoe was further trained to respond to a disability less visible but no less impacting. She continued to be a great help until her last month.

Zoe was my teacher. As my service dog partner, Zoe demonstrated that service dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Together, we attended the theater, completed my Masters Degree, and proudly walked the ceremony with the full support of our amazing CSUF educators and professors. We enjoyed many concerts (thank you Mutt Muffs), and were regulars at Disneyland, Sea World, and various animal parks. We frequented a variety of stores and restaurants, museums, craft fairs and more.  Zoe was also embraced and welcomed by our Synagogue. Her public access skills were praised by many and made me proud. With Zoe by my side, I had the opportunity, through IAADP, television and print media, and other various groups, to speak about assistance dog related advocacy issues. In addition, with the help and support of many, we also learned to speak up for our civil rights as an assistance dog team. 

Zoe was my copilot. While traveling, the TSA and other airline staff would comment on Zoe's fine skills as she confidently waited to be called through her security check and then patiently watched while I finished my screening. Once on board, she settled in on her cozy blanket, under the seat in front of us. She received high praise from flight attendants and pilots for her calm and quiet demeanor throughout our flights. She was the same on buses, trains, and even a boat ride. She was a much better traveler than I. 

Zoe was my ambassador. In addition to our many other activities, Zoe provided invaluable assistance in my work environment as well. She also taught my many third grade students, and their parents, about the world of assistance dogs and the important roles they have in the lives of people with disabilities. She silently taught them about acceptance and a greater understanding of others. My students became ambassadors as well. They learned proper service dog etiquette and were quick to gently correct other students in the school if they reached out or tried to distract her. Zoe loved the kids and they loved her as well.

Zoe was my connection. In her younger years, we were a certified therapy dog team. The guidance the leaders provided us in getting our certification and the friends we made while participating in various activities, allowed us to be with like-minded animal friends and helped Zoe and me improve our skills as well. Zoe was also a conversation waiting to happen. Her fuzzy appearance made us particularly vulnerable to strangers while trying to navigate our daily routines. Although this often presented challenges in our daily life, when my gut and time approved, we sometimes took time to meet wonderful people who had stories to share and provided unexpected opportunities for me to learn. We even helped educate others who were seeking genuine knowledge about assistance dogs for a family member or themselves. 

Zoe lived her life with tenacity, joy, and a great sense of humor. She was a friend to all and, when not officially on duty, she adored playing with humans and other toys.  My girl had an abundance of energy. She participated in agility activities just for fun and was a champion runner in the Schnoodle 500, in which she ran the imaginary track through the house and around the dining room table, almost daily, and at breakneck speed. Zoe had a special behavior that always made me laugh. When she was particularly happy to see someone or when playing gleefully, she would smile from ear to ear. She was a music fan as well. For reasons only she must have known, any time the Doobie Brothers song, "What a Fool Believes" would begin to play anywhere (and I mean anywhere), she would abruptly stop, sit, perk up her ears, stretch her head up, and begin to howl like a wolf. My dentist's office staff liked to have her show off this skill to whomever was being seen when we were there. In our restful times, she was a sweet and gentle love bug who snuggled and showered me with kisses and love.

Zoe and I were far from perfect.  She was my first service dog and I had a lot to learn. I never stopped trying and together we continually worked on being the best that we could be. We had good days, not so good days and many moments in between that were memorable for a variety of reasons at both ends of the spectrum. Through it all, we have been blessed and made better by the love and support of so many in the training and assistance dogs communities. I am eternally grateful for their kind and caring guidance. I am also grateful for the wonderful friendships which have been formed and strengthened through these years.

I have been comforted and cared for by some truly amazing friends who have surrounded me with love and understanding. I am forever changed by all they have done, and continue to do, to help me find my way. I have not been able to reach out and it is not easy now. 

I hope that this tribute to my sweet Zoe will help me heal and allow you a glimpse of our unforgettable lives together. In Greek, the word "Zoe" means "life." Zoe truly gave me back my life and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Laura and Zoe, forever in my heart