Deane loves dogs.
He reaches over the edge of his wheelchair tray to pet any dog that walks by. He calls out to sit on the floor to try to snuggle up beside them.
Years ago he became inconsolably upset after reading a Curious George book in which the monkey gets a dog. He wanted a dog too.
The rest of the family would also like a dog.
I am the holdout. When the kids were young, I said no because the dog would inevitably become my dog since I’m at home more than anyone else.
But that excuse is getting thin. Deane is almost 18. He still has a couple of years of school, but there is no avoiding that we need to start planning for his life after school. We have begun to realize that a dog, or more specifically, a service or companion dog seems to make sense.
With the complicated process involved in “transitioning” out of the paediatric into the adult health care and other systems, a dog fell to the “some day” list. Not because our attitude changed. It was just one more ball to juggle.
And then there is the cost. Everything I’ve heard is that a fully trained service dog is at least a $20,000 investment.
We continue to think and talk about the possibility of a dog – especially with dog owners who see Deane’s immediate attraction to their pets.
Around Christmas this past year, in conversation at a work party, my husband mentioned our desire to get a dog for Deane.
Perhaps it is because his office is a very dog friendly place or it is simply their very kind and generous spirit that they took the issue into their own hands.
Two of my husband’s colleagues launched a gofundme page to raise money to help realize Deane’s dream to get a dog – not just any dog, a service dog. Other colleagues and many friends and relatives have very generously contributed to the fund. Thank you never seems to be enough, but know that we are deeply appreciative of everyone who is helping support this dream.
Now that the possibility of a dog has become a reality I have been won over.
I have searched a number of organizations that train dogs for people with disabilities. Some are companion dogs, which as the name suggests, are designed to provide company and unconditional love. Technically they are not service dogs so cannot go into restaurants and many other public places.
The next level is a true service dog. I have made some initial contact with an organization that comes with high recommendations. COPE provides “life partner” dogs. They can learn up to 90 commands focusing on increasing their partner’s independence as well as social and therapeutic interactions. Part of the process is figuring what you want the dog to do for you.
There is a three stage qualification process for the owners and then, when one becomes available, they are matched with a dog that has finished its extensive obedience training. After that there are two sessions of training where Deane would get to know his dog and learn how to direct him.
As we dash from orthotics, to respirology, to the ear/nose/throat clinics, to Botox treatments, surgery follow-up and neurologists, it is easy to lose sight of the non-medical, non-therapy things. To actually have a way forward on something as positive as fulfilling a lifelong dream for Deane is a wonderful redirection. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to “Deane’s New Best Friend” page. Sometimes it takes others to show you what is really important. We are continuing to raise the money toward the $20,000 goal so that we can make this dream of so many a reality for the biggest dog lover I know.