Just about two weeks ago, we finally got a letter that I have been approved to receive a support mobility dog. It has been a very, very long process of prayer, hope, dreams, depression, and longing.
First I had to get a glimmer of a dream of a possible future for me. It seems impossible sometimes to avoid looking around at all I’ve lost, to see any kind of a future. When I let myself remember how very full my life was before, and how barren it seems now, it’s like looking at a wall. A dead end. I try to make myself picture a window that I can see through to look at what my life will become now. Perhaps one day I will be able to picture a door that I can walk through, into a new, lovely life. I won’t lie to you, it’s a tough process, and sometimes I’ve definitely been more successful than others. But God has been down here with me. and I’ve learned a lot about trusting and listening to Him. He’s very good at that…He’s had lots of practice.
I first had the vision maybe two years ago, not long after I came home from the facility. If I was going to struggle with walking independently for quite some time, and possibly forever, why not apply for one of these mobility dogs that I was reading about?
So that launched the first wave of effort. My oldest daughter, who had been home with us during the 9 months after my accident, took on the project. She did lots of computer research and made dozens of calls. It seemed most places we found wouldn’t allow their dogs to go out of state, only trained dogs for children and veterans, or were prohibitively expensive. She finally settled on a man here, in our city, who trained dogs He said he had several breeders he regularly used, and he would be willing to go with us to pick out the puppy. We would do the basic obedience training, and he would do the specialized part of the training.
I did further research on mobility dogs. Unlike other support dogs, they have to be fully mature…approximate two years old. Just the frame that they wear around their neck is pretty heavy, and in case the person stumbles and puts their full weight on the dog, their bone structure has to be mature enough to handle it.
And there is a very high risk that a puppy won’t turn out to have the correct temperament. After 18 months of training and love and waiting, we would definitely have a pet. But maybe not a mobility dog. Pretty scary stuff. But I said “Ok”, because this seemed the only option available. And a puppy is, after all, very very lovable!
And then came months of waiting, without a call back. When we eventually managed to make contact, it was only to find that this man had tragically died of an premature heart attack a few months before.
Of course this was a much, much more extreme tragedy for the man’s family than for us! Even so, it seemed like another setback on my journey to find a dog.
Back to the facility in St. Louis that my daughter had initially called, who had refused to give her an idea of any waiting period until we paid the application fee. As I pointed out, it had already been more than a year since we had initially started the process. The usual wait time we were finding for a dog was 2 to 3 years, so if we had applied at the time …..
My husband quickly agreed. He called them. The initial contact was indeed most unhelpful, which must have been what turned my daughter off. They were mostly concerned with telling you what the dogs could NOT do. They were NOT seeing eye dogs, they were NOT trained for PTSD, yadda yadda yadda. He persevered, thank goodness. She agreed to send him an application. Game on.
My lifelong best friend lives just a few miles away from this particular place, and she is the one who hand-delivered the initial application packet, and the follow-up packet. She and her husband also paid the application fee for us. They, along with several other friends, started doing some heavy duty praying.
Support Dogs Inc., where my dog is coming from, is, as I said previously, in the St. Louis area. I can’t say enough about the great work this organization does! We visited there a few weeks ago, and it just made my heart leap up to see those dogs, so proud and tall, all there for their “specialized” training. They are all born there, then at 8 weeks they go, either first to a family or to prison to live with a prisoner (they will eventually all do both) for their socialization and basic obedience training. Then when they are 18 months old, they come back for the specialized training. We saw 2 litters of puppies, and about a dozen of the older returning dogs. My dog is more than likely right now in a prison or a home.
Can you tell I am excited? This is me trying to hold it down. This application process has already been very extensive, and more than a year. They say the wait will be less than two more years, most probably around a year. I am content to wait now that I know for sure that somewhere out there there’s a dog for me.
Hello out there, my doggy pal! I’m praying for you, and your trainers.