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The Angel that changed my life - My Take by Karan S Shahh, Canine Trainer-Behaviourist

In My Take this week, Karan S Shahh, who has spinal muscular atrophy, talks about his journey towards self-realization.

I am 20 years old and I have spinal muscular atrophy Type III. I am a certified canine trainer and behaviorist and my story of how I came into this cute little doggy field is rather interesting.

My elder brother Mihir, also born with spinal muscular atrophy (Type 2 in his case), was attending a dog show one fine morning at Bal Mohan Vidya Mandir, a school in Mumbai, when Magic caught his attention.

A sleek black labrador, Magic, is India's first assist dog and she dazzled Mihir with her intelligence.

He returned home tremendously excited after he learnt about renowned canine behaviorist Shirin Merchant, who trained dogs to be an assistant for the #differentlynormal. He tried to convince our mother, but had no luck - he might as well have proposed a pet lion! Animals were a strict no-no in the house, and besides, she didn't really need the added responsibility.

Mihir suddenly passed away one morning in 2011, while my parents were bathing him. This shattered us and the household plunged into a dark silence. The subject of dog was never brought up for a couple of years. The aftermath of my brother's death was an emotional rollercoaster for me, with irrational upsurges of anger.

I would pick up fights with people twice my size and abuse torrentially at the slightest provocation and I was also in depression.

My mother was at her wit's end, until one morning, a close family friend came home with a surprise gift. Out of the basket popped a frisky one-month-old pup, a beige ball of belligerence, barking her little head off. Enter, Angel.

Angel came and lifted the mood of the house that was still reeling from the loss of a child. My non-dog-loving mother was floored by Angel's sheer goofiness and the change she saw in her depressed son. But above and beyond the infectious happiness the pup was spreading, she was also showing signs of extreme intelligence.

Mihir's words began to come true. And then we start searching for a trainer and mom recalled what Mihir said about dogs that can assist #differentlynormal.

So as usual I asked Google Baba, and then I got in touch with Shirin Merchant. Meeting her was a turning point in my life. That time I was searching for career, and Shirin Aunty offered that I join her trainer course to become a dog trainer and that's how I got into this field.

With her help I trained Angel to be assistant dog, and now she does a couple of things, like open the door, cupboards, drawers etc. She removes my socks once I am back from work, she fetches the newspaper, my keys and a lot more! She also supports the Swachh Bharat mission (lol), she picks up waste from the ground and puts it in the dustbin.

Start of a career

We visit schools, colleges, NGOs etc. and spread awareness on how dogs can change lives. After since Angel has come in my life, and the way I have changed, I can proudly say that I AM NOT DISABLED, NOR SPECIAL, I AM KARAN! #differentlynormal

Apart from that, I have now also started a petition regarding making public washrooms wheelchair accessible in India. It's an initiative not only for me but for all the #differentlynormal.

The reason I use the hashtag #differentlynormal is because we are normal in a different way. I would always prefer calling ourselves normal, but c'mon it's not possible in a country like India where there's lack of awareness.

Please do support my petition too - I Demand Accessible Toilets

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