Bracha Fischel is a talented painter in Israel who became a quadriplegic later in life.
In 2006, she fell ill with rheumatoid arthritis with spinal involvement. After undergoing surgery, all four of her limbs became paralyzed. At first, she didn’t know how she would live. But being the brave woman that she is, Bracha decided to face this new challenge with grace.
“This wasn’t a punishment. This wasn’t a mistake. It just happened. I can be depressed about it, or I can make something of it,” she said.
Bracha spent the next six months at the Tel Hashomer rehabilitation center to recover. There, she learned how to use her mouth to write and hold things.
And when she came back home, Bracha tried to live her life as normally as possible. Although she had limited use of her hands, her condition didn’t stop her from continuing a hobby she’s always loved—painting.
Luckily, she has the most adorable assistant by her side: her service dog, Donna.
For her 60th birthday in 2019, Bracha’s daughters and friends donated to a fund to get her a support dog. She was hesitant at first, but having Donna by her side proved to be one of the best things to ever happen in her life.
The sweet-natured pup allows her to enjoy a new level of independence. Donna assists her master with daily tasks, such as refilling the water jug, putting paint rags in the laundry basket, bringing her phone to her lap, and bringing her paintbrushes.
“Donna brings brushes into my mouth, as well as pencils, felt-tip pens,” Bracha told The Dodo. “Everything I need to paint.”
But where Donna truly shines is when it’s time for Bracha to have her meals. Using a modified spoon, the dog holds the device in her mouth and literally helps her best friend eat.
“She is apparently the first dog to learn to do this,” Bracha said.
And Bracha just feels happy seeing that Donna helps her with “a lot of joy.”
“We are a good team,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
Painting became Bracha’s greatest passion. In 2007, she took a course at the Hamburger Akademie, which helped her become a successful mouth painter.
“Painting helped me cope with my new life situation. Although I can not do many things anymore, I have found the strength to develop myself,” she said.
As Bracha’s skills developed, big opportunities started to open up for her. She began receiving invitations to exhibit and lecture around the world.
Before the pandemic, Bracha used to exhibit yearly in Switzerland. In March 2020, she was supposed to display 90 paintings in Germany. However, before her flight, the coronavirus canceled all travels.
Bracha stayed in Israel, but with the support of the Jewish community and the German municipality, they went on with a virtual exhibit.
Painting also became a way for Bracha to give back to the community. Aside from creating beautiful art, she also lectures, volunteers, and advocates for inclusivity.
She spends time with patients at a nursing home who don’t have any family to visit them. She also speaks up for the rights of people with disabilities.
Every Friday, Bracha devotes a couple of hours to send out personal messages and her latest paintings to a global and growing network of people.
“There are healthy people and there are sick people. We can be depressed, or we can take what we have and do something with it. Even if it’s just a smile, we always have a chance to give. Yes, sitting in a chair is annoying, but life goes on, and God doesn’t make mistakes,” she said.
Although her disability keeps her from moving as much as she used to, the support she gets from her loved ones, her community, and her beloved service dog Donna motivates the artist to keep going with her mission.
Now, every painting and endeavor that Bracha accomplishes represents not just her talent but also her service dog’s undying devotion to making her life as easy as possible.
Watch the video below to see how Donna helps Bracha eat.
Dogs truly make our lives better, don’t they? If you were inspired by this story, please share it with your friends and family!