Monday, 13 October 2014

OUR BELOVED SASSY

Sassy - Banff Alberta - Summer 2004

Dear Friends,

Our summer hiatus seemed to linger on a little more than planned but “cest la vie” … we’re back on the bloggersphere and I will continue to post “Mike’s Quadrant” on a monthly basis.

Before reading any further, this particular and rather unique blog has been written from a very personal and heartfelt perspective intended to reach those who are truly committed to animal welfare and love our pets.  If you are one of these kindred souls then please read on but be forewarned that I do not write in brevity and what follows is a 5,000 word epitaph/essay conveying our love and remembrance. 

I have to relay the sad news that “Our Beloved Sassy” passed away peacefully last August 28th.  While it’s true that all pets are unique and special, while endearing themselves to us in ways we never thought possible, our Sassy girl was extraordinary in so many facets that we felt compelled to celebrate and share her remarkable life with my many friends around the world.  If you are one of my friends on Facebook, you probably saw Sassy on my home page without even realizing the significance of this beautiful, athletic, intelligent, compassionate and loyal girl who was always at my side for the past 12 years.  My partner Mary Anne (Maire) and I spent half a year in 2003 researching breeders and kennels all across Eastern Canada ideally looking for a black colored Labrador retriever who could be potentially trained to become my working dog.  After experiencing so many highs and lows we came close to giving up the search when at the 11th hour we received a phone call from Karl Lechowski Farms based in Gravenhurst, Ontario that he may just have the right dog which fit all of our criteria except for one thing, she was not black, but rather a Yellow Labrador Retriever.  Undaunted, we quickly made the 4 hour jaunt east to finally meet our prospective new addition to our family.  Talk about “love at first sight”.  Sassy was the cutest 2 year old, youthful, eager to please, boundless energy and clearly in need of a safe environment and a loving family setting.  The bond was almost immediate.  Maire and I were like two doting parents bringing their newborn home from the hospital!  We spoiled her with everything from the finest doggy bed and a wide array of play toys in her own labelled toy box to the healthiest (usually most expensive) food on the market and a daily regime of 2-4 km walkies around our neighbourhood.  Typical of most Labs, she adored the water and quickly became our bathing beauty at the nearby Rideau River, in ponds, lakes and later in the oceans of the world.  Sass soon became a fixture at everything we did and everywhere we went.  Usually, she was the star of the show, and on the odd occasion when we didn’t bring her along our hosts were visibly upset that it was just the two of us!  
Mike, Maire & Sassy - Rideau River, Manotick Ontario - Fall 2003
Fast forward to age 4 or age 28 in human years.  Sass was growing out of her puppy phase, enjoying life as my trusted and steadfast companion eagerly entering into her young adult life.  While working at the National Office of the Canadian Paraplegic Association I came across a new organization called “Canines With A Cause” (CWAC) who were based in Ottawa and just happened to be starting an Assistance Dog certification program. I soon established contact with the head of the charity Ms. Miriam Mas who was open to the concept of training a slightly older dog like Sassy for potential certification.  After a couple of introductory assessments, Miriam felt comfortable that Sassy’s health, intelligence and obedience were of a high enough standard to be accepted into the program … then the real work began.  Virtually all of 2004-2005 were dedicated towards succeeding in having Sassy become a fully certified Assistance Dog.  It is truly a team effort utilizing an abundance of resources and it was exhausting on Maire, me and my pooch.  In addition to learning upwards of 80 verbal commands I had many books and manuals to read on Canine history, behavior and the rationale supporting the human bond.  As Miriam was always fond of reminding us potential graduates, your puppy in training is only as smart as its master … I’ll let you guys ponder that one! 

Nearing the end of 2005 summer I had successfully passed the theoretical component of the program (90% minimum comprehension) and all that remained was the much dreaded “Public Access Test”.  This is a mandatory annual test under the auspices of the Assistance Dogs International and the Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools which all certified animals must successfully complete if they are to receive their official certification card and all the inherent rights that accords the dog and its handler.  My test, which was conducted in North Bay, Ontario was set in a large shopping mall and comprised a team of volunteers all dispersed to strategic locations where Sassy and I had to successfully complete approximately 15 separate tasks utilizing a multitude of commands.  They ranged from opening an automatic door opener with her paw; a sit-stay with random children without reacting;  fetching her own leash a bringing it to me;  picking up off the floor a variety of objects such as a quarter, keys and my wallet to my glasses and backpack.  Some of the more challenging aspects of the test involved remaining on a tight leash while browsing through a pet store without sniffing or reacting to all the environmental senses; being led away with my consent by a security guard and finally (my favourite and most challenging) was to remain alone on a sit-stay for 5 minutes in front of a busy bakery without any reaction.  Apparently, the scent of hot baked bread arouses the senses like nothing else … I guess yet another human/canine commonality!  After a grueling hour of being in the “hot seat” both Sassy and I were physically and mentally exhausted.  Finally, I, Maire and trainer Miriam were directed to a nearby restaurant where we met a group of 10 volunteer observers who had been covertly following and tracking all our tasks and evaluating our performances.  They all collectively smiled at the same moment and said “Congratulations, you passed with flying colours”!  The relief on both Sassy and my face was palpable … we could breathe again and of course Sass was now a fully certified Assistance Dog legally able to go anywhere and everywhere with us as a vital part of my safety, welfare and companionship.

Award - CWAC Official Graduation Ceremony - Fall, 2005
In 2007 we drove to Southern West Coast Mexico on an extended business (Research and Development) road trip.  We eventually found our little piece of paradise in the form of a two acre lot in a very remote surfing beach near Las Brisas with a Mexican style villa complete with a small outdoor shower and pool directly facing the Pacific Ocean.  At age seven, Sass was in heaven!  Most days she traded in her working dog cape, collar and leash in exchange for being “au naturel” while hanging out with the many other wild beach roaming cats, dogs, horses, fishermen and surfers.  We later adopted a “quasi” security dog named Pulgas (Spanish for fleas), a beautiful large German Shepard with quite a bit of history, who became our protector and had the utmost respect for Sassy (aka Sassita).  The two of them soon became best buddies and could always be found rolling on the sand, running the 7 km. beach and then Pulgas taught Sassita how to body surf … it was a magical time.  As word got passed up and down the beach about these Canadian’s who take in dogs, we were inundated with canines of every size, shape and breed.  One of the stray girls who stole a piece of my heart was named Pantera (Spanish for Panther).  While she was a mix breed (as almost all Mexican dogs are) she was predominantly of the Weirmeranger breed hailing from Germany as bred as hunting dogs.  She would continue to hang out at our villa day after day and when we’d head out in my modified Chevy Tahoe down the beach or over the mountain to the nearest large town of Zihuatanejho (2 hours away) she’d be lying right next to where I parked my truck whether we were away for 2 or 14 hours … to say she was bonded would be an understatement!  Perhaps because we 
Mike, Sassy & Pantera - Las Brisas Mexico - Summer 2007
fed her so well, cared for her by bringing all the dogs to the nearest vet, Jorge in Ixtapa or giving them some true Canadian TLC, she became our third dog.  Thinking we were over-feeding her or that she had a stomach infection, it rapidly became apparent she was pregnant.  Some two months later we were the proud surrogate parents of another 9 puppies.  Of course, by now you can tell that Maire and I are animal-holics and accordingly we made the necessary arrangements to keep Pantera in a safe and sanitary area under our sun deck so she could tend to the pups and let them experience the world in a relatively safe environment.  We even rode out a direct hit from a category one hurricane which are quite common on that stretch of oceanfront.  Nature and birth is at its most wonderful as she delivered two grey, two black, two brown and one yellow pups all healthy with their own unique characters.  We gave them all Spanish names but one beautiful, brave and curious pup stood out from the rest … the one we named her Amarillo (Spanish for yellow) later nicknamed Amo because she was always “firing on all cylinders”!  Through our many local Mexican friends we eventually found safe and caring homes for all the 8 pups but decided to adopt Amo and bring her back to Canada that fall. 

Pantera's Pups - Las Brisas, Mexico - Summer 2007
 Firmly back on Canadian soil with the “tres amigos con uno pera” in the form of one 6 week old pup who would become Sassy’s younger sister and all the joys, adventures and misadventures that dogs inevitably get into each and every day.  In a typical day I would walk both dogs each and every morning in every season and every weather condition a good 2-4 km while Maire would take over the afternoon “walkies” and of course we would all share in the playtimes and try to love both of them equally.  As Amo started growing out of her puppy phase she began to grow and fill out with a huge barrel chest, pretty face and beautiful markings.  By age 2 she weighed about 60 pounds but was strong, fierce and powerful.  Being a more dominant personally then Sassy she always wanted to take the lead and Sassy seemed content to cover the rear as I’d wheel around with both dogs tethered to a post welded onto the left side of my power wheelchair.  When we were going flat out in excess of 8.5 km and the dogs were in full stride I almost felt like I was starting to assemble a wheelchair “sled team” as I could feel the wind in my face and the strength of these two amazing animals at a combined weight 140 pounds ripping up the streets.

Hoping that Amo might also have the same characteristics of Sassy in terms of intelligence, obedience and disposition to one day also become a certified Assistance Dog, we entered her into the CWAC puppy program for evaluation.  While she was doing quite well at the beginning, she started showing signs of aggression and nipped at one of the trainers.  There was a strict policy of “one bite and you’re out” so we had to accept the fact that she didn’t have the right socialization skills vital to become part of this elite group of canines.  While it wasn’t working dog status, we achieved quite an accomplishment when Maire and Amo passed PetSmart’s Level I Training Course and learned many of the standard commands such as “watch me”, “heal”, “sit”, stay”, “fetch it”, “leave it”, “shake paw”, “lie down”, etc.  We were especially proud of the fact that she also responded to all of her
Amo & Sassy - Manotick, Ontario - Fall 2008

commands in English and Spanish.  After 3 years of blending into our family we were glad that Sassy had a sister and a play pal but inevitably Amo always wanted to dominate Sassy, most people and even tested my patience on many occasions as her aggression started to get the better of her.  I suppose you can take the dog out of Mexico but never Mexico out the dog!  When you consider the many millions of wild Mexican stray dogs and their DNA, they are programmed to fight for territory, food and ultimately their survival.  Hence, with all the mixed breeds you are bound to have plenty of anti-social behavior issues in virtually all dogs especially when their entire existence is predicated on being a protector of people’s homes and property.  In the end, we thought it best for Sassy’s long-term health and welfare to locate  a good safe home for Amo with another local couple who were capable of continuing to love and care for her as we had.



Over the next years Sassy really came into her prime and year-after-year managed to be my loyal and trusted sidekick, loving to travel in the truck with us, swimming whenever she could and of course always rising to the challenge of passing the annual Public Access Tests so she could retain the Service Dog designation.  When she’s at home she is just like any other pet with all the perks of playing with her toys, prancing around the yard and loving to be petted but as soon as she dons her cape she turns into a different kind of “super pooch” who somehow becomes more professional, more alert, carries herself with greater stature and performs her tasks on the very first command.  Likewise, she is also a beautiful, loving and curious dog who likes to socialize and adores children.  While all handlers with and without disabilities are unique and different, I take a very liberal policy of allowing people to interact with her even when she’s working as long as they asked me politely and Sassy remains calm on a sit-stay and does not get her focus diverted from doing her job.

In 2009 we had the opportunity to revisit Mexico.  On this occasion it was on their east coast known as the Mexican Rivera and we spent time travelling from the States of Campeche and Yucatan Peninsula to Cancun in Quintana Roo.  On this occasion, I wanted to stretch my independence and actually for the first time in 7 years travelled without my partner Maire so it was just me and my side-kick Sassy.  Truth be told, I did not enjoy the east coast nearly as much as the west coast.  I found the pace to be much more frenetic, the interactions with some of the locals more strained and opportunistic and never understood what all the commotion (self- promotion)  about Cancun was all
Sassy & Amigos - Westin Hotel - Cancun Mexico - Winter 2009
about.  If you can picture Las Vegas on the Gulf of Mexico that about sums up the clutter of hotels, nightclubs, shops, tourist attractions and nightmare traffic with very little consideration given to accessibility issues for people using mobility devices.  Maire flew down to join us in Cancun and we eventually located a rental unit which was not too fond of dogs, even working dogs.  Most Mexican’s can’t seem to wrap their heads around the concept of a dog being of service to a person even if it’s a violation of my international human rights to which Mexico have agreed to uphold.  Even though we spoke quite good “Spanglish” and had Sassy’s credentials translated into Spanish we were perpetually put in the position of having to defend our rights to have her access to public areas.  In the end we were more satisfied to hang out at the beach and sip on cold cervezas and tequilas!

Upon our return we were informed by Sassy’s trainer Miriam that she would be merging her CWAC organization with the prestigious Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) and starting a new Assistance Dog Division. As such Sassy would need to be recertified adopting a more comprehensive set of guidelines and stringent sets of regulations and standards that are followed to the tee by the various international Guide Dogs associations.  As they were fond of stating we are only as good as the weakest canine and handler and they set the bar very high in terms of which dogs and handlers actually make it all the way into the program and actually graduate.  The failure rate is
Sassy - Riding in the Chevy Tahoe - Suumer 2010
considered quite high.  One of their strict rules is that each working dog would have to be mandatory retired at age 11 which, if successful, would give Sassy only 1 ½ years of active service.  Like the trooper she is we again wrapped our heads around learning the new theory and some of the new set of skills and commands that would be required for retaining her Assistance Dog status.  We again passed our examinations including the 6th Public Access Test and it was a proud moment when we received her new red and white cape complete with certification card with me wearing my matching tropical yellow shirt.  We were further honoured by having a one page profile in the CGDB quarterly magazine called “Side by Side”.

As the old adage goes nothing stays the same forever and change is inevitable whether you are ready for it or not.  Upon considerable introspection, with the support of Maire we made the bold decision to finally complete my business diploma which I had started in 1989 age 28 and now at the tender age of 49 I entered Algonquin College’s School of Business in Small and Medium Enterprise Management (SME) studies.  As many of you may know the old days of blackboards, pencils and paper have been replaced by computer labs, online programs, laptops and digital everything!  It took me more than the first 6 month just to navigate the new methods of learning and more often than not I was the old guy in the power wheelchair sitting at the back of the class with my dog.  Yes, Sassy was back on the job and took it all in stride even adopting a renewed youth akin to returning to “doggy school” herself and quickly became a favourite with many professors, support staff and fellow
Mike & Sassy -  Manotick, Ontario - Winter 2011
students.  Out of an enrollment of 60,000 full and part time student-body Sassy and were the only ones to have both our headshots on my student card. My plan of trying to be stealth never panned out too well especially after a feature long article was published in the Algonquin Times newspaper where the writer inserted of photo of Sassy at my side and some salient quotes about how she helps facilitate my independence and the many tasks she performs throughout the day.  With my prior education and many life skills I was able to be exempted from a number of courses but in the end I had quite a full plate of courses both in class and online.  Focusing intently on challenging my older mind to absorb new knowledge, some three years later in 2013, I was proud to graduate with Maire and doggy family in attendance to receive my second business diploma with honours at a lavish ceremony in the NHL hockey arena here in nearby Kanata.

After turning 11 years old including being a working dog for the past six years under two organizations, countless travel and a world of experiences Sassy was visibly tired and her age was catching up to her.  As difficult as it was we had no choice except to accept the fact that she would be retiring shortly.  Her playful spirit, beautiful lines and sparkling eyes belayed a body that was starting to wear out.  But even when she was most tired and slept throughout the day, she always had a smile that could melt your heart, a voracious appetite and would still be up for her daily 2-4 kilometer “walkies” around the neighbourhood.  She still enjoyed fetching just about anything, swimming in the nearby Rideau River and the odd time in our pool and seemed content that her routine and “raison d’etre” had changed.  She reverted into her natural role of our guard dog and took her new role
Sassy - Showing Off - Manotick, ON - Summer 2011
seriously letting out a resonate bark whenever someone would come to the door that you’d think she was a 120 pound German Shepherd not a 70 pound aging Yellow Lab.  The one skill that she retained all of her life was the most important command and that was to “fetch phone”.  If my partner ever fell or had an accident and our lives were in jeopardy Sassy was trained to sniff out a special phone with a strap around it and bring it to me gently placing it in a position where I could call out for help.  Fortunately, we never found ourselves in this situation but I feel certain that Sassy could have saved our lives if ever put to the test.   You can’t say that about every dog or every human.  It just reinforces the importance of these special animals and the vital roles they play in helping enhance people’s lives including those of us with disabilities.  

We were fortunate to have a trainer like Miriam who understood our needs, that of the dogs and was able to pare her prior knowledge and experience in order for us to look at transitioning to having another Assistance Dog “seamlessly” from where Sassy left off.   Both Maire and I were somewhat leery about having our home life altered yet again and trying to blend another dog with a “twice shy” Sassy might be quite a challenge that we weren’t ready for.  On the flip side, we had such a life-altering positive experience with Sassy that we thought we’d give it a go and took the plunge.  Miriam had secretly put our needs on her radar and had been on the lookout for a potential match between me and a new younger puppy in training who might fit the bill.  In 2011, we were summoned to CGDB headquarters in nearby Manotick and Miriam introduced us to her new “J
Sassy & Jigger - Bonding at Home - Fall 2011
Litter” breed of Yellow/Golden Retrievers, specifically narrowed down to Joel and his brother Jigger.  My senses were supercharging when I met both of them but when I interacted with Jigger there was a strong connection.  He was a big, beautiful 2 year-old with a large head, floppy ears, gorgeous lines and a “goofy” demeanor that made him all the more lovable.  We always see him as an old soul in a young body and he looked like a suitable match for me but equally as important the question of whether he would interact in a respectful and positive way with Sassy?  Upon bringing him over for the first meeting they did the traditional old sniffing each other up and down and then Jigger laid down in a subservient gesture which we all took as a sign of respect for Sassy’s age, wisdom, territory and that she was and would always remain our number one dog!  The two of them worked as a true team of sister and brother and more often than not, Sassy would teach Jigger how to perform tasks and commands as most dogs are so eager to please and learn through observation, repetition and positive reinforcement.  We had found the right match and slowly but surely Sassy seemed content to accept relinquishing her role as my Assistance Dog and seemed satisfied that I was in good hands with Jigger.  At age 11 or 77 human years Sassy was finally enjoying a peaceful retirement at home after a long, highly successful and rewarding career … who could ask for anything more!      

Mike Playing with the Pooches - Home Manotick, ON - Summer 2011
             In the summer of 2011, we had the honour of being invited to the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa to greet Prince William and Kate during their very first trip (honeymoon) to Canada when we bestowed upon them a gift that money can’t buy.  It was one of the few occasions when we had both Sassy and Jigger wearing their capes and both being on their best behavior despite all the commotion.  Here is an extraction from the Press Release:

ROYAL INSPIRATION COMES FULL CIRCLE

Before her death, Princess Diana made it clear that she wanted to help Mike with The Back-Up Trust – a British based charity founded by Nemesvary, which helps people with spinal cord injuries transform their lives by realizing their full potential.  Although the Princess supported Back-Up from the “sidelines”, her indomitable spirit, strength of character and “Royal Inspiration” helped Nemesvary and his charitable organizations improve the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries while raising in excess of $25 Million (CND).  Following her tragic car crash in 1997, Nemesvary had the honour of recounting his friendship with Princess Diana when he addressed the Nation through a variety of media interviews.

Now, twenty five years after first meeting Princess Diana this “Royal Inspiration Comes Full Circle” as Nemesvary will meet Prince William and Princess Kate in Ottawa on “Canada Day”.  He will present the Royal Couple with a gift truly befitting a Prince and Princess and something that money can’t buy … fond memories of “Mum”.  Nemesvary will also present the couple with a beautifully framed, glass encased, hand written letter on “Charles and Diana” stationary from Princess Diana to Nemesvary in July, 1986, a Daily Mail newspaper clipping in which Diana and Mike discuss plans for Prince William’s first outing on the ski slopes and a copy of his most recent documentary film, ‘Round the World Challenge (RWC) in which Nemesvary and the Canadian television production company GAPC Entertainment Inc. have memorialized Princess Diana. 

On “Canada Day” Mike Nemesvary’s gift, combined with a unique and enduring Canadian-British royal connection, is sure to warm the hearts of  William and Kate at the start of their “honeymoon” while reminding everyone how much positive impact the Monarchy is making around the world.
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Sassy & Jigger - Awaiting the Royal Couple - Governor General's Residence - Ottawa ON - Summer 2011
As Sassy was now in retirement mode, we were having more health concerns, and frequent trips to her veterinarian were becoming the norm.  All Pure Bred Labradors are at risk for hip dysplasia and Sassy was no exception as her many years of jumping up and down, fetching items and remaining on guard had taken their toll.  She had now been diagnosed with arthritis which was quite progressive and it became necessary for Sass to take a Vet prescribed medicine that was almost a “miracle drug” as it alleviated her pain and kept her mobility, independence and dignity intact. 

Sassy with Favourite Duck - Chilling at Home - Summer 2014  
Therefore it came as quite a blow to the gut when we learned that at age 13 she was diagnosed with an inoperable splenetic tumor and was given approximately one month to live.  For a short while after we were continually walking (rolling) on egg shells but month after month she defied the doctors and was still able to get around and was remarkably experiencing a high quality of life.  It didn’t hurt that always had “Iron Will”, the “Heart of a Lioness” and was always glad to be alive. This past July 28th marked Sassy’s 14th birthday and likely her last, so we had a grand celebration along with plenty of hugs, presents and Maire’s coconut cake. 

On August 28th Sassy passed away peacefully at Carleton Veterinary Services just outside North Gower during a gorgeous sunset befitting a beautiful creature who brought so much joy to this world.  We are dedicating this Thanksgiving Day for having Sassy on the planet for 14 years or 98 human years ...  may she rest in peace.


           Stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will be posted at the end of November.  Finally and importantly, please watch the following 8 min. video clip below which shows Sassy in all her glory.  If you liked what you’ve read and watched, please follow me on Google in addition to sending me your comments, “likes” and sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!



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About Me

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Skiing and Film Career:

 

At age 15, Mike Nemesvary set his goal to become the best freestyle skier in the world.  By the mid 1980's he held more than 40 titles in his sport including 3 World Cup Victories; 18 World Cup Podiums; 3 European; 11 Canadian and 5 British Championships.  Mike also developed a successful sideline as a skier and stunt performer in a number of television commercials, programs and feature films including James Bond’s “A View to a Kill” and Willy Bogner’s “Fire and Ice.” 

 

Spinal Cord Injury:

 

On May 18th, 1985 Mike’s life dramatically changed during a routine trampoline workout when he attempted a double twisting, double back somersault and blacked-out, landing on his neck instantly becoming a high level quadriplegic, paralysed from the chest down and losing full use of his legs, arms and hands.  Following months of intensive rehabilitation Mike picked up the pieces and began to rebuild his life.  He moved into an accessible home, learned to drive a modified sports car and became a proficient sit skier.  Wanting to share his life-affirming approach he started “The Back Up Trust”; a very successful UK-Based charity raising more than $20 million to enable people with spinal cord injuries to reintegrate back into society and surpass their aspirations by facilitating challenging sports.

 

Speaking Career and Disability Advocacy:

 

After completing his post-secondary education in Commerce, Mike developed and honed his skills to become a passionate, powerful and outspoken disability advocate.  He has represented many Not-For-Profit organizations including: World Committee on Disability; March of Dimes; Tetra Society of North America and National Access Awareness Week.  In 1992 he formed Mike Nemesvary & Associates and enjoys a successful and rewarding career as a professional speaker presenting 100's of keynotes, seminars and workshops to local, national and international organizations.  Some of his prestigious clients include: Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company; General Motors Corporation; Bell Canada; National Research Council; Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; Health Canada and the Canadian Injury Prevention Foundation.

 

‘Round the World Challenge:

 

Mike then decided to take the ultimate challenge by becoming the first quadriplegic to drive unassisted around the world.  More than 7 years in development, the ‘Round the World Challenge was a grueling circumnavigation lasting 7 months, through 20 countries and clocking more than 40,000 kilometres.  While navigating some of the most treacherous roads, enduring the most extreme weather conditions and temperatures on the planet, Mike also surmounted continual inaccessible stops and accommodations in an unrelenting, exhausting daily schedule.  During the formidable odyssey, Mike also managed to visit 40 medical institutions, gave 52 speaking engagements and wrote weekly columns.  The ‘Round the World Challenge successfully culminated in the Fall of 2001 and raised more than $1.5 million for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research. His accomplishments received numerous honours and recognition in many countries including the “Key to the City” in Ottawa and the “Meritorious Service Medal” from the Governor General of Canada.

 

Personal Life:

 

Mike’s remarkable life has been extensively chronicled as the subject of six international and award winning television documentaries in addition to numerous magazine, newspaper articles, radio interviews and television appearances.  Mike presently resides south of Ottawa with his Partner, Mary Anne McPhee and “Sassy” and “Jigger”, both Labrador Retrievers “Certified Assistance Dogs”.  In his spare time Mikes enjoys sit-skiing, scuba diving, swimming, writing, backgammon, listening to music and playing the harmonica.