Shannon Martin is a volunteer Chaplain in Houston where she lives with her husband and two sons. She lives with a combination of painful physical challenges brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, facet joint syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, Grave’s disease, facet joint syndrome and mysotis. Despite this, she is one of the sunniest, friendliest, most loving people we have ever met. It is truly a pleasure to know her!
Shannon wrote in her application about why she wanted a Service Dog:
How is it that when I sit down in this wheelchair I become invisible? There are so many times when no one sees you. It makes me cry and feel so very alone. With a Service Dog, I would once again feel confident, and never again be alone. Visible or invisible, I would be with a friend who would look up and “see” me.
Shortly after being matched with Noble, she wrote:
Noble is so very wonderful! I cannot wait to really begin our lives together. It all seems so surreal. You, Becky and Ann would say to people, “This is Noble, Shannon’s Service Dog.” It was so odd sounding in my ears. “Shannon’s Service Dog” And yet, when I look into Noble’s eyes, I know, just know, we belong together.
I am not the least bit nervous or worried about the road ahead with Noble in it. Suddenly my outlook has changed from being so so depressed to more upbeat. All I can think is, if just the knowledge of knowing Noble is coming, that he is a part of me, has brought me that far up from my being depressed. Then what will life with him really bring? He is so sweet, and good-natured. He looks at me with those deep golden eyes and I know he loves me. He is smart! I can’t wait to see what challenges he will bring! He has had more training than me! But I’ve raised two teenage boys and lived to tell about it! And I still have a sense of humor! By the way, the children survived too! So I imagine we will do great together!!
You are awesome Sheri! Your team is incredible! The service you provide is unbelievable. I am blown clean away. I am unsure of how to begin to say thank you for the way you have impacted and changed my life so far, and Noble isn’t even here yet! I am deeply in love with you all! Each of you are in my daily prayers.
Several Years later, after being interviewed for public radio, Shannon wrote:
It is Friday morning, Noble and I are preparing to go to my office. I am a Chaplain, and I work with people who want to talk to someone. As I drive, Noble looks out the windows. He recognizes when we are going to places that he likes and knows. He watches the streets and cars so intently that I am certain he is working to memorize the way. When we pull into the church parking lot, he gets excited. He knows where we are!
Rod Rice, a journalist with KUHF-FM, Houston’s public radio station had requested an interview with me to complete his story about THSD. Having already spoken to Sheri Soltes, he was looking for a Houston graduate to interview.
Rod arrived at my office at 11:00 am, a very likable man, personable, funny, and able to put me at ease with very little effort. We spoke a few minutes and then began the interview. He with headphones on and a microphone, me with my hands held tightly together. After just a few questions, I relaxed and found it easier to get words together in my head and out of my mouth! It is quite odd to speak into a microphone! Funny how one little microphone can make my mind go blank and make my mouth say silly words that don’t make a lot of sense! I found that I had to take my eyes off the microphone and look into Rod’s eyes. He has very kind eyes and I was then able to atleast speak a bit more intelligently!
He asked me how Noble changed life in the Martin house. How do you put into words the changes that a Service Dog partner brings to your house, to your daily life, to your heart? I mumbled something about being depressed and alone, that Noble gave me love, gave me a reason to get up and move and he gave me a goal. To learn to be the best partner to this animal that I could be. Because he came to me, trained, open and loving unconditionally. Looking to me for guidance and commands.
Just that quick the interview was over. Noble and Rod became friends, we took group photos and Rod was gone. But my mind remained on the question about how noble changed the Martin house. Oh Noble, you are so beautiful, so strong, so loving, and you have broken open the hurting places in my heart and made them better. You are ever beside me, looking at me with golden eyes that are loving, attentive, and encouraging.
Every day we train two or three times in the day. For most of the day it is only Noble and I. My Noble LOVES to work, he loves to train and he loves to do the things that he can do. We go into the bedroom, I turn and say, “Door, please.”. That is all it takes, Noble turns on a dime and closes the bedroom door. Tail wagging, bright eyes that say, “What next?”.
When I have to go out without Noble, he lays at the front door and whimpers. He can knows the sound of my van in the driveway, and as I approach the door I can hear him making his little howl! No matter how tired I am, I get excited as I open the door and am bombarded with sniffs and kisses. Tail wagging, happy face on, Noble gives me the best greeting. I can roll to the mailbox and back and I get that same welcome from Noble! He will rest his head on my feet, so that I cannot go anywhere without him knowing.
When I am ill, which is often, Noble is there, watching over me. If I reach for something that is on the floor, he rushes to pick up what he thinks I want. When I have to rest in my bed, he will gently lay his head on my bed. Staring at me, as if to say, ”May I come up please?” He accepts whatever answer I give, negative or positive. He doesn’t get mad, he just lays down on the floor. If I begin to get up, no matter how hard asleep he is, he will jump up to be with me. Again, looking at me in love, dependency, and excitement wondering where we will go from here. But, if it is a positive answer he gently crawls up on the bed, sniffs my face and gives me a sweet quick lick on the nose. He then nestles up against me, warming me, comforting me and loving me.
When we are out in public, Noble is spot on at all times. He stays right beside me, looking at me with those loving eyes, ready to go. Everywhere we go, people tell me how well behaved Noble is, that we are always welcome back.
So, Rod Rice of KUHF. FM how do I answer that question? How has Noble changed the Martin house? In every way from day that he arrived! How do I compact all that he is, all that he does into one little answer?? I think I just babbled something about his love, training, and the goal of making him the very best SD he can be. How do you condense all that into one comprehensible sentence? I still don’t know, how about you?
Shannon & Noble Martin