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Angela's Quake

Debbie Vanderford lives in East Sacramento with her husband Ken and their dog Quake. They have two amazing daughters, Katherine and Meghan. Debbie was born loving three things; dogs, popcorn and the color yellow.

Angela and Quake

Before I share the story of Angela's Quake, I will give you a little background about Quake.

Quake was born to be a service dog. He was raised by me, my friend Cathy Chenu Campbell, and my husband Ken. Quake came from an organization based out of Santa Rosa, called Canine Companions, one of our nation's top service dog organization.

He was an eight-week-old puppy and our job as puppy raisers was to expose him to life experiences; work environments, public transportation, grocery stores, theatre, walking over grates, stairs, elevators, cats, and so much more, along with 30 commands. Quake was so easy to train, and such a joy to raise. He made us look like we really knew what we were doing. After 20 months of training with us, it was time for Quake to go back to Canine Companions for his professional training.

In professional training, Quake quickly learned more advanced commands such as Push (for pushing drawers shut), Tug, (for tugging laundry baskets, and to open doors and refrigerators) Switch (for turning on and off lights) Get (to retrieve dropped items, such as keys, phones, money etc.) and to walk comfortably next to wheelchairs.

When Quake was 26 months old he was a ready and capable dog and the process began to match his skills with someone's needs. Angela had applied one year before to receive a service dog to help her with daily chores and challenges that she faced living with Multiple Sclerosis.

After two weeks of intense team training, Angela and Quake were deemed a perfect match and we all witnessed their graduation. As Quake's puppy raisers we got to meet, have lunch with Angela and present Quake to Angela on stage at their graduation. It's a huge emotional moment, a beautiful experience that you always carry in your heart!

Angela and Quake graduated in August of 2019, and came home to Sacramento where they settled into their daily routine. Angela sent us photos and videos of all the things Quake was doing for her to make her life easier: picking up the many items she dropped, retrieving laundry from the dryer, getting water from the refrigerator — all the things Quake was trained to do! Life with Quake was easier for Angela.


They attained weekly sewing classes and luncheons at the MS Center and Quake was loved by all, especially Angela. He was devoted to Angela and she to him. Unfortunately, when Covid hit in 2020 all social outings stopped. A difficult time for our world, but especially for Angela and Quake because their world got smaller.

In August of 2021, I received a call from Angela, asking if I could take care of Quake while she went into surgery to have her bladder removed due to cancer. I said, of course, but little did I know how the next eight months would be for her. Angela was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, due to the cancer spreading. But, through it all between Cathy and I we would bring Quake to visit Angela wherever she was. With each visit Quake would jump up on the bed and Angela would hold him tight and just love him, so heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

I could see that Quake was getting more and more reluctant while visiting his Angela. She lost so much weight that he could no longer jump on the bed. I pulled a chair next to her bed and he would rest his head next to her. In his last act of service, while Angela was in a coma, I slipped his leash between her hands, and she gripped it knowing he was near. With this last interaction, Quake repositioned himself in the chair and turned his back to her bed. I knew I couldn't bring him to see her again. She died the next day, and in all the sadness ,Quake became a broken dog.

In the months that followed Canine Companions realized Quake should live the rest of his life with us, which was the right decision! Quake and I have become a therapy team we now visit schools, colleges, libraries and outreach events. I don't bring him to hospitals because I fear it would remind him of his many difficult visits with Angela.

As I promised Angela towards the end of her life, I would keep her and Quake's story alive and share their short but beautiful time together!

A story of great love and commitment — Angela's Quake.

~ Debbie Vanderford





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