Compassionate, creative, resilient and strong are words friends use when describing today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman. Abby Kitto is all of these and so much more! I believe today’s post will educate you, entertain you and make you really really hungry for lemon pie!
KR: Tell me about what brings you joy and fulfillment.
AK: I find fulfillment in helping people communicate a message. This can be seen in so many different ways. Personally, I say “I love you” to friends and family by hosting them for a meal. In my work life, I communicate message through a press release or a blog post and it brings me fulfillment that I was able to bridge that gap from corporate to consumer.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
AK: I would say that I am really good at caring for others. I know how to care for someone in moments of need. Another thing I pride myself on is being thoughtful. Whether it is remembering a birthday card or sending a sympathy card on the one year anniversary of someone’s passing, it is important to me to make sure that friends and family know that I am with them in their celebrations and their sorrows. I want them to know that I am there for thick and thin, not just the celebratory moments.
KR: While I haven’t had the opportunity to personally meet Sadie yet, I understand she’s an incredible, supportive partner. Can you tell us a little about how she became your service dog?
AK: Sadie sort of fell into my lap. Living in an apartment alone got lonely and with my health declining I thought a puppy would help. I did something extremely impulsive—which is NOT like me at all—and went to a local golden retriever breeder. I got their last puppy that couldn’t seem to sell—the runt of the litter. When I showed up at the breeders home, she ran straight out of the door and into my arms. I knew that day something special was about to happen.
The same week I got Sadie, my doctors informed me that I was going to have to consider getting a service dog if I wanted to maintain a normal life. I was told my health was fading fast. My ability to drive safely and to live alone was quickly going away. I started to realize this impulsive decision that my parents scoffed at may have been a God thing.
I informed my doctor I had actually just gotten a golden retriever puppy who had started to do some strange alerting-like behaviors before I passed out (Sadie had started to come to me and cry or paw and nudge at me before I even could feel the episode coming on.). Come to find out, goldens are one of the only breeds that naturally alert to drop in blood pressure before syncope episodes. My body releases a scent that only dogs can pick up on. I have a condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachicardia Syndrome, or POTS for short that causes me to pass out anywhere from 1-7 times a week.
My doctor sent Sadie and me to a medical trainer right away who tested Sadie on all the preliminary tests for service dog prospects and she passed with flying colors. So into training we went. Now, her training is almost complete. Sadie can sense before a syncope episode happens and gives me a five-minute alert so that I can get to a safe place. She has been 100% accurate at that for ten months now.
Sadie has made it so that I can live a normal life again. I can drive safely, I can go to school, have an internship, and live my life without fear of getting hurt. I have no doubts that Sadie was sent to me by some guardian angel watching over me. Even my doctors and our trainers say they have never seen a team work together so well. I am extremely lucky to have her at my side. In every doctors appointment, exam, and celebration I always have a smiling face to do life with. She truly is my saving grace.
KR: As someone who lives with a service animal, what are some important things for our readers to know when encountering a working service animal?
AK: There is a serious epidemic of fake service dogs in the United States and it is important for people to know that ESAs (emotional support animals) are NOT the same as service animals. ESAs have NO public access rights except to live in non-pet-friendly housing or to fly on airplanes with a doctors note. This is VERY important because ESAs do not undergo formal training like Sadie had to, so they aren’t prepared for public access. Sadie has been attacked by ESAs who were illegally in grocery stores twice now, and it is an epidemic that really needs to be stopped. Bottom line: If you don’t NEED a service dog in the grocery store, leave your pet at home, I promise you, they will be happier at home! PLEASE LEAVE YOUR PETS AT HOME AND DON’T CHEAT THE SYSTEM.
Here’s what you need to know when encountering a service animal: The best, coolest, most amazing thing you could do for me is to ignore Sadie. Pretend she isn’t there. If you want to stop me real quick and say “Hey, I read an awesome article about service dogs and give her some pets for me later, because she is the best at her job and she rocks.” That is AMAZING. Please remember that I am just like you and I am just at the grocery store to get milk, not to talk to 35 people about my disability and what my dog does.
KR: Can you tell us what NOT to do?
AK: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Don’t ask me “Whats wrong with you? Why do you have a dog?” When I go to the grocery store for milk, I don’t want to have a conversation with a total stranger about my medical history. That is like asking a total stranger “Hey, whats your bra size?” Super personal stuff, friends. Stuff that most of my friends don’t know and stuff that I certainly don’t want to tell Steve in the checkout line.
Please don’t take pictures of me and Sadie. I probably don’t have makeup on. I am for sure not posing and you didn’t get my good side. But for real, It is creepy. Don’t be stalker-ey and take pictures. That makes me feel like a circus act.
The general rule is “DO NOT PET, DO NOT DISTRACT” So, just pretend they aren’t there. I know it’s hard, because they are adorable and so hardworking, but myself and so many other service dog handlers would appreciate it.
So, why this no petting rule, you ask? It is in place for many reasons, but the main one for us is that if Sadie is seriously distracted and we are in a high risk area, she could be late on an alert. Which would leave me short on time to get to a safe place before I pass out! NOT GOOD. My safety depends on your respect!
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
AK: My 6th grade literature teacher and 8th grade speech teacher, Trigger Butler. Her real name is Margaret Rose Butler, but she was nicknamed “Trigger” at Camp Longhorn in 1952 and it stuck, seven decades later.
Trigger is one of those women that you meet once in your lifetime. She is the kind of woman who touches everyone who comes within reach. She tells me that I am “biased” when I say things like this, but the three hour long line at her retirement party at St. Johns Episcopal School just to shake her hand proves me wrong. She is truly remarkable.
She gave children in her classroom confidence they never knew they had. She turned a boring classroom into the scene from a book we read the night before with simple large white blocks and props. For example, one night we read a book about a family crossing the Zagros Mountains. So guess what we had to cross to get into Mrs. Butler’s classroom? You guessed it. The Zagros Mountains. They weren’t short either, they were four feet off the ground! This situation wasn’t unusual either, this was daily for Mrs. Butler’s room.
Trigger taught me lessons that made me fall in love with literature and showed me how to effectively speak to a crowd, but what trigger truly taught me is that character counts and that living with gratitude is what is most important in life.
I am extremely lucky in that I can say that Trigger morphed from a teacher, into a mentor and a dear friend of mine who I now consider to be a huge part of my life. I call Trigger with silly stories, simple advice questions or the really big questions like “What should I do with my life?” and she is always there. Trigger has lived every moment of her life saying “Lucky, lucky me.” When in reality, it is those of us who have surrounded her who are the lucky ones.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
AK: Super Dishwashing. I hate doing dishes. Help me, super powers!
KR: Rumor has it that you are a extraordinary and gifted hostess. Can you tell us how you developed your killer brunch skills?
AK: My Mother and Grandmother are hostesses extraordinaire. My skills pale in comparison to theirs. They would be appalled to see water spots on some of my silver or on some of my glasses at brunches I have had. My grandmother is notorious for using a ruler to ensure every plate, glass and utensil is equally aligned to the table. I don’t go to near the lengths they do, but in my years growing up watching them set a table and prepare for guests, I picked up a trick or two. I even began to love it as they do. Hosting is a beautiful way to show the people you are hosting that you care for them enough to set the table intricately, iron the cloth napkins, polish the silver, and make it seem like no big deal. Because, they are special and they deserve it!
Planning a meal and a table with detail gives me a certain satisfaction. It reminds me that some things in life will always stay the same. A beautiful brunch will never go out of style, and if it does, it’s a world I don’t want to live in.
KR: Any recipe you’d like to share?
AK: This is a recent find, but I absolutely adore it! It is easy, quick and absolutely delish. I recommend adding more lemon juice than called for and even a little zest to the mixture. Also, add a touch of zest on the top for color! Click HERE for Abby’s favorite lemon pie recipe.
PS: I would highly recommend the entire cookbook that this recipe comes from, The Magnolia Table Cookbook. It is not one of those cookbooks where you can only use one recipe. You can actually use them all. I adore it and have already made a ton of recipes from it!