Profile: Francesca Lewis, Alum, and Willow the Service Dog

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Title

Profile: Francesca Lewis, Alum, and Willow the Service Dog

Catalog Entry

This entry is on Francesca, an alum of Fitchburg State, and her daily struggles with her own mind, and how she gets through her days with the help of her lovely sidekick Willow. Willow, a black lab and mastiff mix, serves as not only Francesca’s service animal, but also as her best friend. Francesca bought Willow from a breeder in Canada when Willow was a puppy. Willow passed her “K9 Good Citizens Test” at the mere age of 6 months. It might’ve helped Willow’s case that her father was an emotional support animal and her father’s father was a search and rescue dog for hikers who get trapped and/or lost on mountains.

However, Willow isn’t Francesca’s only furry friend. Francesca lives on a farm with her parents. The animals that accompany them on the farm are 3 outdoor cats, 1 indoor cat and 2 horses. Willow tends to run around with the horses a lot, and even though it scares Francesca half to death sometimes, Willow loves it. Willow is 3 and a half years old and 120 pounds, but she’s just a big baby. Francesca owned a dog, Toby, before Willow, Toby was half mastiff and half German Shepard. Things began going downhill a bit faster after he passed.

Francesca and her family aren’t originally from this country, so when her sister got arrested for possession of drugs, the authorities deported her.. Toby was Francesca’s sense of support and stability, but once he passed in 2016 she fell into a spiraling mindset. Francesca developed severe agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that causes people to fear and/or avoid situations that may lead them to panic, when she lost Toby, but that’s not all of what she went through. Francesca suffered and still is suffering, but with help from Willow, triggers are more tolerable sometimes.

Francesca developed fibromyalgia, a disorder causing widespread pain, along with fatigue, memory, sleep, and mood issues, in 8th grade due to nerve damage from shingles, along with being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until her junior year in high school when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was put in a 3 day psychiatric hold for self harm, and at that age she didn’t find therapy progressive. It wasn’t until she was 20 when she began to find therapy helpful, and she’s been going for 8 years now, the last few with Willow. Willow is quite literally Francesca’s crutch. When Francesca developed fibromyalgia it made it hard for her to walk, so she uses Willow as her momentum to pull her along and make it to their destination. 

It wasn’t until recently that Francesca was put on medication that allows her to feel stable, because depending on what you’re prescribed, the side effects can be pretty harmful. Francesca said the things that got her through the hardships were and still are her animals. Francesca got the idea of getting a therapy dog from one of her professors who had one. Willow is a therapy dog; they have more “rights” than an emotional support animal as therapy dogs are allowed anywhere while emotional support animals have restrictions. Unsurprisingly, Francesca had encounters where people would walk up to her and have the audacity to say, “you don’t look disabled." A handicap placard isn’t enough to get ignorant people to leave you alone. Francesca even had an encounter with a former employer, and she was asked why Willow was a necessity to have in the workplace. Francesca also finds comfort in her boyfriend, Jared, a guy she’s known for years and used to go to school with. Jared makes sure he takes time to talk Francesca through situations that she might not completely understand due to whatever is majorly affecting her at the time. He helps her relax when she is having anxiety, helps her see things for what they are when she is having a bipolar episode and is always there to comfort her through anything she’s going through. Willow is obviously a loyal friend, but sometimes you need someone to talk to who can respond with words of comfort. Willow might not be able to talk, but she can still show love in her actions of affection.

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Gabriella Rico, Student, Fitchburg State University

Editor(s)

Anne Robinson, Student, Fitchburg State University

Collection

Citation

“Profile: Francesca Lewis, Alum, and Willow the Service Dog,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed November 27, 2022, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/100.

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