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Anam Cara

By Chris Slavin

When Earle, a handsome male yellow Labrador retriever from NEADS: World Class Service Dogs, and I were matched almost seven years ago, I knew I was getting a dog that was going to increase my independence in a world that is not always easy to negotiate with a physical disability. What I did not know was that I would find my Anam Cara. Anam Cara, an ancient Irish term that directly translates as “soul friend,” describes the unique relationship between two souls that transcends this mortal world. It is a once-in-a-lifetime relationship that embodies communication, trust and understanding that allows each individual to become their whole self with complete acceptance and without fear. To become more than what is possible on one’s own. When I took the leash of a very chumbly, drooly and wise pup, I had no idea where he was going to take me. Our first six months together were filled with the “getting to know you” bumps of any new partnership. But I also soon rediscovered my drive to get out into my community, even when it was physically difficult. I was happier, I had a desire to make sure that I was providing Earle with what he needed for a full and healthy life.

“He has taught me that the way we can
get the best out of our limited days on
this earth, is to share with unabashed
generosity, to find joy, and never turn down
an adventure.”

In those early months I also began to see the world through Earle’s eyes and witness his big lab heart touching each person he met. Earle is eternally optimistic, he is able to work with a joyful heart, be a patient listener, a non-judgmental teacher and is always willing to make a new friend. Earle seems to look at each moment as both an adventure and an opportunity to share love, he makes my path, and the path of others, smoother and more joyful. In the almost seven years we have been partnered, Earle has picked up my dropped keys or phone thousands of times, but his true work has been how he has taught me that the way we can get the best out of our limited days on this earth, is to share whatever gifts we may have with unabashed generosity, to find joy in the journey, and never turn down an adventure—or a snack. He is truly my Anam Cara, and I am so grateful for what he gives me each day.

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