Let me start by saying, as of the writing of this blog, I am not receiving any sort of compensation for my opinions so when you hear me talk about Freedom Service Dogs, it is because they are near and dear to my heart and I believe in what they do.
If this is the first post of mine you are reading, then hi and welcome. I have Multiple Sclerosis, it sucks, it sucks pretty hard some days to the extent that I would love it if it was a person I could kick in the teeth. My story of how I came to the decision to apply for a service dog was a very difficult one and I do not enjoy sharing it so hang in there.
Winter of 2015, one year after my official diagnosis, and a few months after I was violently rear-ended in a car accident that resulted in torn hip cartilage that required the use of a walker my husband and I took our kids to the local indoor mall to see Santa. As you can imagine, the mall was filled wall to wall with an insane amount of people and we were trying to leave through the crowd, I encouraged my husband to take the boys ahead of me because I was slow and he hates crowds as much as I do.
As I slowly made my way through the crowd I was shoved aside by two teenage girls trying to get through, mumble to myself something about hating crowds and teenagers are assholes. Fine, moving on, me with my bright blue walker with wheels, just trying to leave the mall. Grown ass man shoves me to the left trying to get through, first of all WTF, second of all, if I was an old lady would they be shoving me? I have never in my life felt so vulnerable than at this very moment, broken, small and in a crowd of people who didn’t give a shit about where I was in their space. At this point I am holding back the tears that are trying to well up in my eyes because I am not weak and I will not let these people break me, there’s a reason I don’t work in retail anymore. Barely holding my shit together but getting closer to being out of this disaster of an outing another set of teenage girls pushed me aside to get by.
Once I left the mall doors and was on my way to the car I started to cry (I could barely walk, I was using something meant for old ladies, I was only a year into a diagnosis that would eventually take everything from me and I just experienced the worst of humanity during the holiday season). This just would not work for me. I started to research after that, what it would take to get a service dog for my MS by the time I needed one. I also set my walker up with flashing bike lights, a warning horn and a cup holder because you had better believe I am not getting shoved around again.
In my research I found that most options for service dogs are buying a Lab type puppy specifically bred for the job and then paying $40,000 for training. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of cash laying around to pay for a service dog, especially when meds for treatment for MS is already very expensive. Then I happened upon Freedom Service Dogs, I vaguely remembered them speaking at one of my DAR meetings when I first joined but at that time I was not yet diagnosed.
Freedom Service Dogs is a non-profit organization that provides fully, custom trained service dogs to people who need them. This includes mobility, veterans, PTSD, they have also partnered with Disco Dogs to provide service dogs to people with Autism at no charge to the client. They provide you with training with your dog and constant support should you want it. They will also help train your dog for things like if you have MS and go from needing Brace and Balance assistance to being in a wheelchair and needing your dog to support you with that.
Want to know more about my journey to getting my service dog? I will post another blog about the next steps next week.