3 September 2019
Jessica Anderson is a Nursing and Psychology major who has taken her unique obstacles and turned them into an outlet to share her story. Since 2017, Jessica has been sharing her life on Instagram with the help of her service dog, Liberty.
“I have multiple cardiac, autoimmune and neurological illnesses that affect my ability to function. They primarily affect my mobility, so I use a service dog who is trained to alert, bring medications, get help, pick up dropped items and [do] over 30 other tasks,” Anderson said.
Her illnesses can be debilitating, but she always has Liberty on her side.
Liberty is a two-year-old golden retriever that Jessica chose and trained herself. They have been partners in life since his birth. Today, Liberty is 23” tall and 65 pounds, and his favorite task is retrieval of dropped items. However, he is also skilled in tasks like finding Jessica’s car, taking her socks off, getting help, hitting the elevator button and several others. He has also flown on 10 domestic flights and one international flight as of now.
Jessica has accumulated nearly 5,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares stories about her health journey, adventures with Liberty and her experiences as an avid hiker.
“I got into hiking for a multitude of reasons. To better my mental health while I was going through a lot and constantly getting bad news, better my physical health and keep myself from deconditioning as much as possible, and it made me feel accomplished. Hiking makes me happy and gives me time to think and reflect about what’s going on in my life,” she said.
Jess and Liberty have hiked more than 30 14ers together. “I’m just proud of being able to do 14ers despite my health. I’ve had so many surgeries, procedures, hospitalizations, and other setbacks and I’m still working towards climbing all 58!”
But her ability to hike depends on her health and current treatments. “There are times where I can barely walk around my apartment complex. I was really able to push myself, honestly far too much, this summer and hiked quite a bit.”
“My health essentially determines if I can hike, how much and if I have to turn around. I’m constantly symptomatic. There are hikes that have been extremely brutal for me. I also can’t hike without Liberty, because he’s a medical alert dog,” Anderson said.
If you haven’t seen them on campus, you can follow Jessica and Liberty @retrievingliberty on Instagram. Until then though, Jessica continues sharing her endurance, power and message of positivity online and in person.