A fluffy rescue-turned-service dog named Halo has helped Cyteria Knight of Charlotte, NC, heal after suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm and stroke in her daughter Raquanza’s kitchen in January 2017.
Excellent doctors and nurses got the lifelong social worker back on her feet, so the Pom-Chi (Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix) named for Beyonce’s song “Halo” could take over. And so could Cyteria’s partner of 35 years, Susan Miller, also a social worker, who has supported Cyteria through finally quitting smoking, eating better and adding exercise to her daily routine.
“People always say, ‘Oh, I appreciate life so much more after what I’ve been through.’ But it’s God’s truth: I feel thankful for every day above ground at this point.”
While Cyteria was still in intensive care, Susan was able to arrange for Halo to spend some time at the hospital. “The people at the hospital could tell that Halo’s presence was helpful to my recovery,” Cyteria said. “The nurses would sometimes take her to other patients’ rooms, to kind of help them through.”
Cyteria’s physical recovery continues, but being cleared to return to work is not on the near horizon. And as Cyteria’s primary caregiver, with health issues of her own, Susan is also at home.
The couple, who have spent their careers navigating systems and programs on behalf of others, now find themselves on the receiving end of help.
It is a difficult shift.
“Under normal circumstances, those things would make you kind of depressed,” Cyteria said. “But my God helps me to keep calm and sort of accepting of where I’m at, and feeling good that it’s fine for now.”
Halo helps, too. “To be able to hold her in my arms and having her breathe next to my heart, those kinds of things feel great,” Cyteria said.
Cheerfully admitting the dog is spoiled “in a good way,” Cyteria usually carries Halo when they are out for exercise walks. They often attract attention.
“From a distance, she looks like a puppy, but she’s a much older dog,” Cyteria said. “Something in her makes other people feel calm.”
Cyteria said people approach Halo and say things like, “Oh, she’s so sweet. So calm. So chill.” Cyteria’s partner, Susan, said it’s hard to tell whether Cyteria or Halo benefit more from the fuss.
“That dog has been our godsend,” Susan said.
During her health journey, Cyteria and Susan used CaringBridge to process her diagnosis and the Ways to Help section of her site to activate a GoFundMe campaign for financial support and the Planner to coordinate her Care Team of friends. Unfortunately, shortly after we visited Cyteria and Susan, and fell in love with Halo, Susan let us know that Halo died in her sleep. She was 11, and her health had been declining. Cyteria and Susan miss her terribly.