For mother Teri Simas, a recent trip to Disneyland Resort offered far more than just another vacation. The trip honored her late husband and brought such neeeded happiness to her family, including her daughter, Lizzy. As they celebrated the life of Ron, Lizzy’s service dog joined the Disney fun, sharing her own unique magic with characters, cast members, and guests.
“Princess Gloria,” as the family calls her, serves as Lizzy’s seizure response dog. Throughout Lizzy’s childhood, though, a golden retriever named Mallery watched over the young girl beginning in elementary school.
“Mallery stood by Lizzy’s side through the rest of elementary school, middle school and high school, and touched the hearts of all who knew her. Mallery proved the importance of such companions to the family for years,” mother Teri told MickeyBlog. Mallery sadly passed away just shy of the age of 13 and soon after Lizzy finished high school.
“Mallery stood by Lizzy’s side through the rest of elementary school, middle school and high school, and touched the hearts of all who knew her. Mallery died shortly before her 13th birthday, and our hearts were broken,” Teri beautifully described. “Shortly thereafter we decided to go back on the list for another service dog from the same agency, Canine Assistants.”
“In 2016 ‘Princess Gloria’ was assigned to Lizzy. Like Mallery, Gloria was definitely a match made in Heaven, and Gloria took over where Mallery left off. Lizzy’s smile reappeared and she was once again incredibly happy with a new and very loved service dog by her side,” Teri continued.
When Ron passed away suddenly after a massive heart attack, the family again relied on Gloria to provide comfort to their family. In fact, her cheerful spirit even brought joy to the family’s adopted extended “family.”
“While I was performing CPR on him waiting for our first responders to arrive, Gloria was doing everything she could to help me. Despite everyone’s valiant lifesaving efforts, Ron died and the PTSD that followed for all of us was heart wrenching,” Teri said in an email to MickeyBlog.
“We later learned that we couldn’t have saved him due to unforeseen medical issues, but our lives were changed forever. Thereafter, our local firefighters and paramedics became part of our extended family and ‘adopted’ Lizzy and Gloria into their family. They are the perfect ‘big brothers’ and our forever heroes,” she explained.
Gloria’s Disneyland Connection
With their 2020 trip to Disneyland delayed, the family chose to take their trip savings and donate the funds to the Canine Unit and Widows and Orphans funds at the local fire and police departments.
Meanwhile in 2021, they began planning their recent trip to Disneyland. At the heart of the trip, the family hope to honor Ron.
Hoping to spread a bit of cheer, Lizzy also wanted to make sure to include Gloria in an incredibly special way.
“Lizzy wanted nothing more than to have the Disney cast members and characters meet Gloria, and started planning Gloria’s daily costumes, which brought an immense amount of excitement and happiness back into our lives,” Teri graciously described to MickeyBlog. “The Disney family responded beyond favorably — and sadness was replaced by overwhelming joy.”
From princesses to classic Disney characters, Gloria’s outfits capture such magic. Her charasmatic spirit, contagious smile and youthful exuberance shine along with her incredibly playful spirit as she engages with so many favorite characters and cast members.
“Lizzy lost her father very suddenly during the quarantine. Taking her dog to [Disneyland] and dressing her up for the characters has really given her something to smile about. Disney has brought a lot of joy to this family when they really needed it,” said MickeyTravels agent Meghan Hopkins, who planned the family’s trip to “the happiest place on Earth.”
With family members who happen to also be Disneyland annual passholders, we can expect to see more from Lizzy and her creative ensembles for Lizzy. The family does try to visit as often as possible. What a remarkable way to honor such a special family member and share a bit of magic with thousands!