Lesson on life
Speaker, canine share message of tolerance

March 26, 2007
By: Patrick Cooley
Staff Writer
Troy Daily News

Kyle Elementary students got a message in bullying from someone who has been deeply affected by it.

Gabrielle Ford - and her canine companion, Izzy - talked to Kyle's student body during an assembly Friday afternoon.

When Ford was 13 years old she was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease that caused her to walk with a limp.

Throughout high school, she said she was repeatedly taunted and bullied by her classmates, but after graduation, her situation became even worse. The few friends she had stopped talking to her - and she became confined to a wheelchair.

Ford said she was afraid to go into public places for fear of meeting the classmates who had tormented her in high school, and she became very lonely. Eventually, her mother agreed to buy her a dog.

When she was 20, her mother bought her Izzy -

Gabe & Izzy by Troy Daily News Staff Photographer, ANTHONY WEBER Troy Daily News STAFF PHOTO ANTHONY WEBER
Gabrielle Ford receives hugs from Kyle Elementary School students after speaking to them in regard to bullying Friday. Ford, who said she was taunted and teased in school, visits schools around the nation to help educate others about bullying and how to treat people. Ironically her day, Izzy, a black-and-tan coonfound, was diagnosed with a disease that mirrors some of the same symptons as Ford's disease.
short for Isabelle. They had the dog for several years when they noticed Izzy was walking with a limp, much the same way Ford had when she first started showing symptoms of her disease.

When they took the dog to a veterinarian, they were told Izzy had a rare muscular disease with symptoms similar to that of Ford's nerve disease.

"We lean on each other for support," Ford said during her presentation.

She shared her story with the students at Kyle, telling them how she was pushed in the hallways and mocked by her fellow students. For a long time she kept her emotions inside, refusing to tell anyone, which resulted in long-term psychological problems.

At the end of her presentation, she asked Kyle students to remember their words and deeds can not only be hurtful, but have long-term effects on the people they've hurt.

Many Kyle students said they were moved by what Ford had to say in the program, made available by Wait & C.

Olivia Russell said it gave her new insight into those who are getting bullied. "I thought it was kind of sad," Russell said. "It revealed the way she got bullied, and it really hurt her."

Rachel Lacy said it made her think about the way she sometimes treats other people, and the way she gets treated herself. "Sometimes people say things about me that really hurt me, and sometimes I might do things to other people that are hurtful without realizing it," Lacey said. "I think people never realize what they're doing is hurting other people's feelings."

Jessie Shelton learned that sometimes bystanders have to take action to prevent bullying. "I feel that it's important not to bully people," Shelton said. "And if you see someone by themselves you should talk to them, make them feel better."

Ford and her dog have been touring the country visiting schools for almost four years. Other schools visited prior to Friday include Covington Middle School, Tipp City Middle School and the Miami County Juvenile Detention Center.

For more information on Ford, visit her Web site at www.gabeandizzy.com.

Reprinted with permission