One August afternoon my mother and I were sitting on the deck in our backyard, enjoying the sun and relaxing. I was telling her about my plans to study abroad while in college, and my dreams to travel to foreign countries to learn about their culture. At one point in our discussion, my mom turned to me and asked, “Why not start here?”
She had a valid point. I have lived in Michigan my entire life, yet I have never really seen much of what the state had to offer. I go on yearly camping trips with my dad and brothers, where we canoe on the Rifle River, and I just got home from a mini road trip to Grand Rapids where I visited my brother and saw Lake Michigan for the first time; but other than that, I have not experienced much of Michigan at all.
That afternoon, my mom and I started planning a road trip to the very northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mackinac Island. Within three days we had our suitcases packed and our route planned.
The first day we planned to drive from our home in New Baltimore to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and stay the night in Traverse City. The second day we left Traverse City and took the Ferry over to Mackinac Island. After a full day’s worth of exploring, we started the trip home and ended up in Brighten for the night. On the third day, we drove home.
The plan seemed simple enough, but we faced a few challenges along the way. To start with, my mother suffers with Bipolar Disorder, and as a result she has a service dog to help her calm down when faced with emotional stress to avoid a mental breakdown. Everywhere we went we had to make sure we could make accommodations for her little Yorkie, Priscilla.
It started with keeping the license on hand so we could prove to store owners, restaurants, and hotels that Priscilla isn’t just a pet, she’s a registered service dog. This proved to be quite the challenge in some cases because many people looked at her and thought, “What could that little dog possibly do to help someone in need?” The answer to that question lies within the mysteries of the relationship between a dog and their owner. Priscilla isn’t a life saving dog that will pull a person out of a burning building, but her service is a great one, nonetheless. She soothes my mother when she is stressed and evens out her mood to keep her from slipping into a manic episode.
In addition to making people understand her purpose, we had to make sure Priscilla was able to physically handle some of the activities we had planned. Walking around Mackinac Island could be quite the struggle for such a small dog, so we made accommodations such as biking with her in a basket. We also had to limit our hiking at the Sleeping Bear Dunes to maintain her health (but I’m not 100% sure that was for her, it might have been for my mom!)
Taking this trip with my mom and her trusty service dog not only helped me understand the beauty in the world I am used to and grew up in before tackling the rest of the world, but also taught me more about my own mom and her needs with her illness. It showed me how much of a difference Priscilla makes in her health, something I didn’t pay much attention to before. This trip taught me a lot and some of the lessons I learned were unintentional, but definitely lessons I’m glad I learned before heading off to college.
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