Getting My Service Dog

I went through the application and interview process with Freedom Service Dogs and was so happy and grateful when I was accepted. The next step was to wait on the waiting list until they called to tell me they had a dog that they thought matched with me.

What this means is matched for personality and needs. I was asked to come meet my potential service dog. It was love, he was awkward, silly and had a beard that made him look like an old man. It was summer when we met so I was wearing a dress and he got his head stuck in it and all confused trying to get out. It was hysterical. At the end of the meeting they asked me if I was interested in him and I jokingly said he could either be my service dog or they would have to chase a disabled person with a dog to get him back.

Freedom Service Dogs did all the training prior to when I started working with him. He had all the tasks I needed ready in his brain. Now, it was my turn to learn the commands, hand signs and him to learn about me. We had several weeks of training, several weeks of bonding and more than two years later I cannot imagine my life without him. Some days going out is kind of like having a toddle in toe, because you have to get them dressed, make sure you have treats (aka snacks) and know that it will take longer doing whatever it is you’re doing because people will stop you and ask questions.

All of that is worth it though, I don’t have to focus on my feet anymore because he does that for me. If I drop something I know he will pick it up, I know I have my own little support system when I am alone, because he is there to help me.

He is allowed to go everywhere, so if you have a service dog, know the laws in your area. The US has ADA laws that allow you to go everywhere the public goes and bring your service dog along with you. Do not allow people into bullying you not to be somewhere.

The laws, rights and trouble I have run in to will be my next service dog post. So if you are interested in knowing more about that, keep an eye open for that.

The Road to Deciding to Get a Service Dog for My Multiple Sclerosis

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.

Little Things… be grateful

Today, the boys do not have school. They get the day off because it’s parent teacher conference time. This morning we went to my youngest conference and then we stopped to pick up groceries on the way home. Most people grocery shop with a list and walking into the store and down all the required aisles. I do not. I have a service dog that some people still don’t realize that touching without asking is not okay. So instead of using my allotted spoons (energy for those of you without a chronic illness) for buying groceries I order them online and have the nice people at my local store load them up for me.

This online shopping is becoming increasing popular for the general public. Honestly, it helps me in many ways, I don’t have to worry about forgetting something, I start my list online several days before hand and then ask each family member if they need anything in particular. This gives everyone the chance to give me information and I do not have to worry about multiple trips. I don’t use my little energy walking into the store and gathering all the items while also answering people’s questions about my service dog and also advising them that “no, please do not touch him, he’s working”, then loading the car, unloading the car and putting everything away. I know it doesn’t sound exhausting to the “normal” person, but let me tell you, my brain is fried after and my body is more fatigued and requires rest for at least 2 hours before really trying to do anything else.

Today, my loving boys helped me more than then probably realized. We got the online order packed into my car and went home. Once we go there, the boys unloaded almost the entire car for me. They came in like a well oiled machine, one, then the other, over and over, handing me bags of groceries that I just put away. I thanked them for helping me SO MUCH, I think they thought I was just being polite. But honestly, now, because they helped me bring all of the groceries in I may be able to do a load of laundry today or something else.

A very long time ago I used to work in retail. I know it is a hard job, I appreciate the people who do it because it’s not something I could do again. When I thanked the man helping me with my order he kept apologizing for not being able to complete part of my order. I don’t mind, I told him, they saved me time and stress I am just delighted I didn’t have to do it. He told me I would be surprised by how upset some people get because they don’t get a specific brand of carrots. You know what though, the people who are going to be pissy about having the luxury of someone else going around and doing their shopping so they don’t have to should rethink their life goals. If a specific brand is that important to you and it’s going to ruin your day, take you working legs into the store and shop yourself. It’s not their fault your specific, no substitution product was not available.

It’s November, be grateful for what you can, some days are going to be harder than others, but some lives are harder than others.