Giving Paws

Giving Paws: Having a Service Dog for a Hidden Disability by [Thompson, Martha L.]THE BOOK: Giving Paws: Having a Service Dog for a Hidden Disability.


THE AUTHOR: Martha L. Thompson.

THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro.

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books – Virginia Beach, VA.

SUMMARY: When Martha’s doctor recommends that she get a service dog to help her contend with the disabling symptoms of her chronic illness, she thinks it is a great idea. She has lived with dogs for years and works at a zoo, so she believes in the healing powers of animals. She adopts a Chihuahua/Dachshund named Henry, gets him trained and fully expects the quality of her life to improve.

Martha L. Thompson

Henry is smart and learns his tasks well, but his small stature and undeniable charm draw attention to Martha that she is not ready for. People want to know why she needs a service dog, and ask “What’s wrong with you?” Trying to explain her illness is embarrassing and awkward, and Henry’s presence is a constant reminder that she is disabled. Consequently, her symptoms get worse.

Martha wants to retire Henry early, but he perseveres. They trudge forward and she learns to advocate for people with “invisible disabilities.” Instead of shying away from questions, she uses them as an opportunity to teach people about the therapeutic benefits of service animals.

With time and effort, she passes through the initial awkward period and starts to experience unexpected gifts of Henry’s devotion. His charm breaks down cultural and social barriers and enables her to have friendships with coworkers who once intimidated her.

The most surprising outcome of having Henry by her side comes after several years. During their time together Martha becomes willing to accept her physical and emotional limitations, and as a result experiences a new freedom. Although her goal with Henry was to remain strong enough to work, it is with his help that she sees it would be in her best interest to stop working entirely. She gradually lets go of the unrealistic, unmet expectations she has had of herself and begins to explore the next phase of her life.

THE BACK STORY: When I embarked on the process of obtaining and training a service dog to help me, I believed life would get easier, but I was wrong. My shame about being sick and my self-consciousness were aggravated by the presence of a cute dog by my side, but Instead of jumping ship I decided, with Henry’s help, to learn all I could about service dogs for people with “invisible disabilities,” and try to increase awareness. Writing a book seemed like the most practical way to do it, especially since I’m shy by nature. The idea of making a You-Tube video or doing a podcast was intimidating, but I could write.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Originally, I called it My Big Ugly Service Dog, as a joke because I believed I wouldn’t have had so many problems with Henry if he had been a big, “normal” sized service dog. But the title would have confused people, and didn’t grab the attention of the intended audience. Although some agents thought my first title was clever.

Anyway, GIVING PAWS: Having a Service Dog for a Hidden Disability is a more practical title and it gets to the point.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Anyone who has loved a dog or cat understands their instinct to snuggle with us when we don’t feel well, but not everyone knows how dogs can be trained to assist people with all kinds of maladies and disabilities. My book will be invaluable to anyone who could benefit from having a service dog. It will be particularly helpful to those with “invisible disabilities,” who are considering getting a service dog. The process is not as simple as putting a vest on the dog and bringing them everywhere they go. There will be obstacles, and my story offers solutions and lessons on how to keep going despite the bumps in in the road.

There are a few books on the market about training service dogs, but none that tell a personal account that include all the highs and lows.


“Martha L. Thompson’s book, Giving Paws: Having a Service Dog for a Hidden Disability  ss a soul-baring, honest, compelling account of living with physical and emotional challenges and how a service animal can literally help someone continue surviving.”—DEAR ABBY

“Martha Thompson’s Giving Paws is a powerful, deeply personal journey into a better life beside a service dog for invisible disabilities. Challenged by health, public perception, and a deep sense of ethic about the partnership, Thompson forges a life–and a book–that many readers will find compelling, indeed.” — SUSANNAH CHARLESON, NYT bestselling author of Scent of the Missing and The Possibility Dogs.

“Giving Paws is a gem of a book, as entertaining as it is educational. Readers will fall in love with Henry, a little dog with a big heart—and an important job to do.” — BRENDA SCOTT ROYCE, author of Monkey Love,  Champion’s New Shoes and Bailey the Wonder Dog.

“With compelling honesty about her chronic illnesses, Thompson offers keen insights into the therapeutic relationship with service dogs. She is an engaging guide into the expanding world of animal assisted therapy.”  — JACQUELINE SHEEHAN, Ph.D., fiction writer, essayist and psychologist. Author of Tiger in the House, The Center of the World, Picture This, Now & Then and Lost & Found.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Martha Thompson spent the first twenty years of her professional life performing as an actor. A graduate of the Juilliard School of Drama and Marymount Manhattan College, she toured more than eighty U.S. cities as a member of John Houseman’s Acting Company. She also performed at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York, The Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference in Connecticut, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and many regional theatres throughout the country.

When physical and emotional illness disabled her, Martha was forced to retire from acting. Inspired by her love for her German shepherd, Gus, she explored career options that involved animals, which led her to volunteering, and eventually working at a local zoo where she coordinated volunteers and wrote and edited a weekly newsletter called “ZOONOOZ.”

Her first book, The Oxygen Mask Rule: How My Battle with Anorexia Taught Me to Survive, published in February 2012 by CreateSpace, was a Finalist in the Women’s Issues category of the 2012 International Book Awards.

Martha lives in Los Angeles and continues to heal with the help of her husband Don, her service dog Henry, another beautiful dog named Cassie, four turtles, two Bobwhite and three Button quail.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: By telling my story I hope to increase awareness of the use of service dogs in the treatment of “invisible disabilities,” and inspire people to be more understanding of, and have more compassion for people who suffer with these illnesses.

I also hope to give encouragement, insights and guidance to anyone with an invisible disability who is considering getting a service dog.


WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:, PRICE: Hardcover: $26.95, Paperback: $10.13 and Kindle: $9.99


Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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