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There’s This Thing About a Dog

9

July 7, 2009 by Marj Hatzell

One of the conditions of my husband’s new motorcycle was an addition to the family.  And I’m not talking about a baby, despite the fact that we’d ALL love to have a baby girl in our house (ain’t gonna happen).  I’m talking about a dog, of course.

A few months back I entertained the idea of a sevice or companion dog for Bugaboo.  He has some fairly significant needs, such as running away eloping and not being found.  I researched for a while and found an organization that is close by, mere minutes from our home.  The problem is that they provide in-home companion dogs for children with autism.  And while I am very excited about the benefits of having such a companion for Bugaboo, I am not sure that this animal would be what we are looking for.  In our opinion, we need an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant SERVICE dog.  This is different.  Companion dogs provide companionship, emotional support and can be very therapeutic for children with autism. They learn to care for the animal and develop a close bond with them.  A service dog, however, is a working animal that is trained specially to provide a SERVICE to the client, to make the child or adult’s life easier somehow.  Or to make them more independent (which is the ultimate goal of all persons with disabilities).

While it is fabulous to think of a well-trained animal joining our home, I have to admit I am wondering if it is selfish of us to just go for a dog because we want another pet.  Our kids love Shadow, and she’s been great for them, but she isn’t trained to do anything special.  Well, except for balance carrots on her nose and sleep on the bed.  And bark at leaves when they fall into HER YARD.  I am wondering if a bona fide SERVICE animal would be best for our situation. A dog that would bark to alert us if Bugaboo escaped and is trained to track him in the event that we cannot find him?   INVALUABLE.  Especially since he’s now learned to climb all fences and open all gates.  So much for locks.  This is where an electric fence would be really cool.  Or cruel.  One of the two.

Naturally, I did more digging and found an organization that trains SERVICE dogs for autism. There are a few, one in Florida, in California and in Ohio.  And a few others.  But most importantly, they exist.  And we could get one.  In three to six months, instead of an eighteen month wait like most places.  The catch?  While the more local organizations do their own fundraising and ask for a small donation ($600) when it takes $10,000-15,000 to train and raise the animal, the organization that seems to be the best fit for Bugaboo does not do its own fundraising. In fact, each family/client is asked to do their own.  In other words, we’d have to raise $10,000 or more, plus have money and two weeks to spare to drive to Ohio to train with the animal each day.  Like, stay in a hotel in the middle of Ohio somewhere while we train with this dog and then take him home.  And then every year the animal would have to be recertified.

I am not sure what we should do.  It would certainly be easier to just get an in-home companion dog or go to a local shelter or rescue to obtain our new fur baby.  But the other situation, while a daunting task, would be so much better for Bugaboo!  I mean, if that’s what we have to do for him, I’ll do it.

It’s just such a big decision.

What would YOU do?

9 thoughts on “There’s This Thing About a Dog

  1. MemeGRL says:

    How much was the motorcycle? I think at least that much should/could go to the service dog.
    Honestly? I’d sleep better at night with a tracker. I have wished our dog did that since our oldest learned how to unlock and open the front door, but our dog seems to feel her rightful spot is with the pack’s grownups, no matter what the small ones are up to.
    Some dog out there has no idea how lucky it’s about to get!

  2. RuthWells says:

    Wow, that’s a tough one. It would be a huge effort, but probably worth it. As good an escape artist at Bugaboo already is, imagine him 5 years from now…

  3. Jacki says:

    If I remember my tax law correctly, isn’t a service dog something you can claim on taxes? It’s not like you would purposely go out and spend $10,000+ on a dog unless you really needed to. Especially since it is needed for your child, who has disabilities.

    Wouldn’t you be able to train the companion dog to find him if he were to run off?

    Sorry, I can’t be of any more help. I have a hard time telling people how to spend thousands of dollars. 🙂

  4. pkzcass says:

    Is there anyone in the area who could be a private trainer for a dog rather than going to an organization? In other words, could you look up some in-home trainers and see if they can refer you to someone who may have done this before? Seems as though the most important service this dog could provide would be to track Bug when he’s off and running. Maybe there’s someone local who knows how to do that. Or someone who knows someone… Hell, I might even know someone.

  5. TaraLyn says:

    Do it! He deserves it. You all deserve it.

    I’d be in for fund raisers. Have you thought about putting a donate button on your blog (the ones that link to paypal or something)? Also, proceeds from the annual neighborhood yard sale could go to the fund.

    Service dog all the way…that’s my vote. 🙂

  6. Gwen Jackson says:

    I wish I could say, “Get a pet or get a service dog.” But I don’t know. Are you definitely sure a service dog is what your son needs? Have you talked with his doctors about this? If I were going to spend that kind of money I would want to make sure it would actually be beneficial.

    What is it about the other organizations that do their own fundraising that don’t seem to match your needs? Could you talk with people from those organizations to see if they could “custom” train a dog to more suit your needs? I don’t know why they wouldn’t or couldn’t accomodate the needs of your son.

    • Hmmmm…good food for thought. Am I sure that’s what he needs? No. I am never sure I know what he needs. I guess I have gotten to the point where I don’t know what else to do, so I am going to try this.

      The local organization is a good one, it’s just that their companion dogs are only guaranteed to be companions. AKA well-trained pets. Which is nice and all, I just don’t know that another pet (albeit wonderful) is what Ian needs. The reason we are leaning towards an ADA dog is because Ian is in danger. I am not kidding about this. One more climb over the fence could be his last, it’s that bad.

  7. lora says:

    maybe you could get a gig training these dogs, and then work something out? or volunteer for the organization?

    a girl in college went blind and that’s how she got her seeing eye dog before her sight was totally gone

  8. PwD-SD says:

    It’s hard to tell whether or not your child would be in need of a service dog or therapeutic dog. Which is actually one step above a pet companion.

    What you should do as I tell many people when considering a service dog. What are the pros and cons?
    What are the needs for your child not you, no matter how small they may seem?
    Will these needs be for in the public settings or just home settings? Some individuals aren’t in real need of a service dog because they aren’t in the public setting. But they do need a dog that is more trained then just a pet such as a therapeutic dog.

    Remember a service dog is for independent in public settings. (a simple version).

    With that said being you need a dog that would alert you at home if your child climbs a fence or opens a gate or door. I would also look into search and rescue training as this is similar task. If you find a trainer that works with these dogs I am sure they would be able to modify such training for your needs. Just a thought.

    If after you still find you child is indeed in need of a true service dog and you need to do your own fundraising which these schools is a must. Then check with your local organizations such as the Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, Shriners, etc. You will be surprise of all the help you could get in fundraising.

    Second please do your homework with the schools and make sure that they are not just giving you a dog to tether to your child. They unfortunately do exist and they taken all your money. Just a word of caution.

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