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?