To my dearly beloved Boris,

You were brought into this world to be extraordinary, and when you were old enough to choose the person you planned to inspire, you chose me! The Service Dog Project in Ipswich, MA was where you were born and trained to help a young girl who wished to be as free as everyone around her. She wore orthotics on her legs and struggled to climb curbs and walk on bumpy terrain. She was only 15, but she was ready to be liberated from her shackles; It was you, Boris, who handed her the key.

We trained for 2 weeks in Ipswich and lived together until we could really get to know each other. We went everywhere as a team. I leaned on you like a cane, reminding you to walk slowly. It was funny that way: you granted my freedom, but also forced me to be brisk about it. We walked so fast, and yet it was okay because you were so sturdy, so sure of what you were doing. It took 6 months until we walked in sync, until you could practically read my mind and my every move.

People loved to stare at us everywhere we went. You didn't seem to mind as much as me. But Boris, I realized quickly that people were staring at your beauty instead of my disability. You made me feel so confident because when I was with you I was in no way disabled. I was extraordinary too, just as you were born to be.

We went to school 5 days a week and learned everything together. You carried some of my notebooks in your saddle bags and got excited when you saw the school bus to take us home. Your favorite class was art because nothing beats the feeling of letting your jowls droop onto the newspaper scattered across the tables. After only 2 weeks, you memorized when the school bells would ring and the exact path from class to class. The faculty and students loved you, and just by your presence you made everyone feel at ease. You are just that majestic, my dear.

You helped me to do things I never thought I would do again. I could now walk on outdoor terrain with you by my side. I could go out to the tire swing in my backyard and step up even the highest of curbs, now absent of fear. Without you, I was but a bird with the potential to fly, waiting for wind to pick me up one day and help me to soar. Boris, you are the wind.

I think a lot about how you have grown, and much stuff you have put up with. You didn't question why you had to wear your reindeer antlers or why I made you sit through a bagpipe performance. You just did it because over time you changed my world, and maybe in some way I became your world. Whatever the reason, you became my hero.

We went through plenty of crazy adventures. From college shopping with your grandma on a three-day trip, to the endless on-stage moments where people clapped and you didn't understand why. You thought humans were just crazy, and well, they are. I wonder what it must be like for you to be among humans 24/7, wondering why they do what they do. Most of all, you probably wonder why I talk so much, like there is never an off switch. You rarely speak, but when you do you sound like an ape in heat. With little effort you make me chuckle, like words don't even need to be spoken to exchange a joke or two.

I'm not sure why you didn't try to run away once you realized I was a violinist. No matter how talented a person is, being a front row spectator with sensitive ears is never fun. But you just put your head down and waited until I needed you for an opinion. I hope all those hours practicing in my room were your secret pleasure. I hope that for just five minutes you found peace and happiness in what I played, because you were the only one who ever stayed around to listen to every minute of it. Thank you for that.

Boris, my handsome man, you sure did clean up nicely when it was time to be fancy. It was just more of the shenanigans I made you put up with, but again, you embraced it to make me smile. You curled up under restaurant tables and fit yourself into the tiniest of spaces with your blankets. Although a Great Dane, you were born to be a magician, defying all logic and understanding just to prove to the world that it could be done.

But things fell apart, right? I began to lose my mobility, and please know that it had nothing to do with you. For two years you held me up and gave me a taste of autonomy, but it was not in the cards for me to preserve it forever. I went into surgery to try to regain some of it, but you didn't know why I went away, did you? You growled at doctors and interrogated everyone before they entered my room. I had never seen you so protective, and yet for the length of my surgical recovery you took your new job seriously. Grandma had to remind you to eat because you never left your bed next to me. You felt my suffering, and as if to take it away, you comforted me like I had always done for you. Thank you for that, too.

Oh, then we went to our high school graduation just 2 weeks after that spinal surgery. I got up and gave my valedictorian speech with you cheering me on. If only they had allowed you to have given one too; I wonder what you would have said. No matter what, my beautiful Boris, I hope you don't mind me growing up. But hey, thank you for growing up with me, because I couldn't imagine anyone better to have done it with.

Remember when we went off to college? At first you didn't like being away from our family home, but eventually you fell into the routine and ease of campus life. Your new job was to pull my wheelchair after my surgery, and you loved it more than walking beside me. Still, you enjoyed chasing squirrels, so we worked on that and helped you to fight your addiction. You are a silly boy, for sure! In the end, the wheelchair gave me back so much freedom after so many months without. I felt sad that it had replaced you in some respects, but you loved your new job so much that you didn't seem to notice.

You did have your rebel days where you wished to lay 5 feet from your designated spot or stare at me intently before sneezing just so that you could have an excuse to stand up. But I never minded. It takes a special soul to be a rebel like you, and I bet from the day that you met me you knew I was one too.

You've always been a momma's boy. Everyone says you're so masculine, brutish, and robust, but they rarely saw the true Boris. You are a suck-up, a big baby, a clingy koala, and a scared little mouse on the inside. I have to tuck you in every night with your blankie and let you sit on my lap when you're feeling extra needy. Plus, everyone can testify that you love to be brave right up until you're nearly jumping into my arms to hide. Only someone as cute as you could get away with it.

My precious Boris, you were born to be extraordinary, and indeed you are. You are my light in the darkest of times and also my partner in crime when I need you to be. Sometimes I imagine a life without you in it, but how can I even think of something so dreary? You have made my life extraordinary. You have given me your loyalty and love all in hopes that I be free. May you know how eternally grateful I am to you for all you have given to me. Because of you I climbed hills and raced down sidewalks. Because of you I became a superhero who could not be stopped by anything.

I hope that we have many adventures to come, side-by-side. I hope people continue to stare at your beauty and not my wheelchair. I hope that someday you will like water and rain. I hope that you love your job and tell me when you don't want to do it anymore. And I hope that you understand how incredible you are. But most of all, Boris, I hope you know just how much good you have brought to this world, and not just to me, but to everyone who has had the honor of meeting you!

With All My Love,