Have you ever received a gift that changed your life?That's what it felt like for me when I received my service dog, Edison, from the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS).

Edison has given me the gift of Independence! I live with cerebral palsy, which is a physical disability that mainly affects my balance and coordination, affecting my ability to walk.

Having Edison by my side is such a comforting feeling. We go everywhere together. We often go to New York City, which requires a cab to the train station, a train ride, a bus and then some walking. Edison does it all with ease and never com plains! Makes me tired just thinking about it! His incredible training helps me more than words can say. The simple act of dropping a pen in the middle of Grand Central Station would send me into a tizzy thinking about having to ask for help and possibly making a big scene. Now with Edison by my side, I don't even think that way. A simple command sends us on our way in less than 30 seconds.

This past weekend we traveled to the Abilities Expo, where I served as an Ambassador. Once again, Edison helped me in various ways. We had to take multiple trains and a bus to get there. Quite the journey, but it was made so much easier with my four-legged friend. He was able to press the button to call the elevator for me, pick up my dropped items and press the automatic door buttons. Just a few of the many tasks that he knows that helped me along. Once we got to the Expo, Edison was a great helper while we were interacting with attendees and making sure everyone was finding the booths they were looking for. It was such a great opportunity for me to be immersed in such a large community for this incredible event. There are not too many chances that are available to people with disabilities to be able to be around people that understand what it's like living with a disability.

Edison does a lot for me but it took a while for it all to come I together. It began with the interview process I went through when I applied to NEADS. I first filled out a short but precise appli cation where I had to answer questions about my daily life and schedule. About a week after I sent the application in, I received a call to head to the NEADS campus for an in-person interview. The interview was an in-depth conversation that elaborated on the questions I previously had answered in the application, and more! Questions like: What time do I wake up in the morning? What time I do I go to sleep? What does a typical day look like? The staff covered all details so they could match me with the dog that would best suit my needs.

O nce the interview was done, the waiting began! It was a year later that I got the call that a dog has been matched to my needs. A month later I went to the training facility to learn how to work with my new pal. Now, after a year and a half of our partnership, I can definitely say that Edison is the greatest gift I've ever gotten!

Statue of liberty

ON THE GO: Sarah and Edison at the NY Metro Abilities Expo on May 5th."I get things done because I have learned that nothing in life comes easy. Everything requires work. Sometimes the work is very, very hard, like physical therapy. It is difficult for me to walk because of my CP, but I try. I work on my muscles and coordination."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah is a Abilities Expo's NY Metro Ambassador. A native New Yorker with Cerebral Palsy, Sarah resides in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. She is determined and driven to go places and do things that she is passionate about. She currently works in the Marketing Department for Convaid Products, a pediatric mobility equipment manufacturer. She loves to spend time with her family and friends and her service dog, Edison.