ACCEPTED for 2nd Service Dog!!

mixed-smiley-046Joy 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.

Emmy in 2012 - Right After Her October Grooming

Emmy in 2012 – Right After Her October Grooming

 

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.

Stardate: -309719.1535705226

Well, Emmy’s been back since January 31. When she arrived she had well-furred ears (!) and looked great. She, naturally, was a bit shaky on her cues, but we finally got those pretty straightened out.

Now, after 2 1/2 months, and the onset of deep Atlanta spring, Emmy is back to itching, licking, gnawing, and scratching. I’ve started wiping her off, especially her feet and legs, when she comes in from being outside. I have tried a wet washrag, dog wipes, and baby wipes. The baby wipes work as well as the other two, leave a slight fragrance that doesn’t seem to bother Emmy, and are easier than the wet washrag. They help some, but not enough. Emmy has also had her first yeast infection (R ear) of the season – despite cleaning and drying ears daily – sometimes twice daily. So, I’ve added Posatex to the grooming routine – again. She is taking Hydroxyzine Pamoate (one of the older antihistamines) and it works better than the (cheaper) benadryl. She is less groggy, doesn’t sleep as much, and can function fairly well despite it. But she still has some problems with paying attention while under it’s influence. I give her a cue, and she stares me (or off into space) as if to say, “I’ve heard that before, I know I should know it, but I can’t get it together.”

We have talked with my liaison at PAALS, and we are looking at a “re-career” move for Emmy – to being a pet with my youngest son and his family. As for me, we have a lot of thinking to do. A smaller Lab from this year’s class, or wait for a Golden Retriever from next year’s class. We have decided to not go for this year’s class because I really need a larger dog, so that will make it next summer before I can be partnered again.

Another option our liaison mentioned is to apply with another service dog provider who might have a larger breed. Well, that’s certainly an option, BUT – we are very strongly attached to PAALS, it’s programs, what they stand for, and the people who are there and who train the dogs. Our liaison said PAALS will understand whatever decision we make because we know what I need and how soon it will be critical.

So, here we are. Already grieving about losing Emmy as my partner – after only 4 1/2 years together. But she’ll be with our youngest son and we’ll be able to see her from time to time.

SIGH! It’s a big decision any way we look at it.

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