I [got] my first service dog April 1st 2001, I now not only live a more independent life, but I help others to do that. Do I move through life at a different pace? Absolutely. But I’m moving through life. I’m going out shopping on my own. I’m working part time which I would have had to give up. I’m using tools that don’t prevent people from accessing me. If I use a cane or a walker for support, people actually treat you like either you’re made of glass so they can’t come close to you or like you’re contagious. The service dog helps to break down those barriers by allowing me to be seen as me, and not seen as those mechanical devices. I do the things when I want to do them, not when somebody has time to help me, and service dogs for me personally are a critical tool. And you know, when you asked earlier about political things, that’s probably an area that I am most likely to be called into taking personal political advocacy beyond the steps I’ve already taken. Because that’s so important to my ability to be as independent and as successful as possible.
Kristin Hartness was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1971. Although her family’s roots are in Worcester, throughout her life she lived in various parts of the country. Kristin discusses her relationship with her parents, who help to manage her multiple sclerosis. She also talks about her relationship with her service dog, which led her to her current position in Worcester as an executive director of the non-profit organization Canines for Disabled Kids. She talks about how her position enables her to provide people with disabilities like her own with service dogs to assist in their daily life. Kristin’s work attempts to answer the question, “How do we handle the needs of the disabled, how do we handle the needs of the elderly, how do we provide public services to the homeless on a city level, but also addressing the fact that we don’t want to feel like Boston?”