Joy reigns in our household! Kim from PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services) called on Friday (yesterday) and said it is official – that I have been accepted as a client for a second mobility service dog! YAAAY!!
Now the final wait begins. There are “lots of dogs” in the pipeline. It is simply a matter of whether it will be this year or next year. That may seem like a long time. But given the number of people waiting and the number of dogs available (nationwide), that is a very short time! At the time I partnered with Emmy, there were over 2000 people waiting for service dogs and only 700 dogs available each year.
And more people apply all the time. Obviously not just with PAALS – there are about 300 service dog organizations across the country. Only about 100 of these are members of ADI (Assistance Dogs International) or other certifying organization.
In my last post I referred to another website that discussed how to spot fake service dogs. The reason there are fake service dogs “out there” is not just because the owners want their precious pet to go with them everywhere. There are people who need a service dog so badly and have waited so long that they “create” a service dog. While it may be well-trained by the owner, the owner-trained service dogs I am familiar with are less well-trained. They are not kept as clean and well-groomed as they should be. They frequently have a bad smell because of poor diet. Their behavior is not as good as it should be.
Yes, I admit my bias. Waiting – however long it takes – to get a service dog through a well-run organization that trains the dogs carefully and ensures their behavior through annual re-certification by unbiased testers means there will be no problems with my dog. I will be re-trained to be a good partner – to be sure I know what I need to do: daily grooming, brushing of teeth, brushing of fur, excellent diet, no table scraps, regular vet visits, keeping up with immunizations, quarterly bathing, and daily practice of the behaviors she (or he!) will have been trained to perform. Over the course of a week, each behavior should be practiced at least 3 or 4 times. If there is hesitancy or improper execution extra time must be spent to bring that behavior up to speed.
This level of care and ongoing training is somewhat difficult for me with my Rheumatoid Disease and Fibromyalgia and with the attendant pain and fatigue. But it is worth it. Frankly, taking care of Emmy (my previous service dog) forced me to move more and to be more active. “Therapeutic,” said my rheumatologist. “Moving around helps keep your joints from freezing up. Keeps your muscles working.” It’s true. I will admit I have less inclined to be active since Emmy retired – not just because of the diseases, but because it is hard to force myself to do the moving I need to do. Himself helps me with that (“Come on, old girl, come sit with me in the kitchen while I cook supper.” “Go with me to Home Depot.” “Time to go to the grocery. Come on.”), and the gardening I started doing the year before Emmy retired helps, too. But – I have to admit honestly that there are times I don’t move around when I could if I just “pushed” myself more.
So – we are very happy. A new dog will be here relatively soon! She will be my helper, my companion, and my new friend.