Service dogs are a great benefit to many different people. They can aid people with balance issues, seizures, or even emotional issues like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. I recently applied for a service dog of my own and it’s been a lengthy, nerve-wracking, and exciting process!
To be eligible, you must be a year out from injury before submitting an application to be considered. Next, you are required to submit a doctor’s recommendation, a therapist’s recommendation, have personal interviews, and LOTS of application forms. I understand the necessity for thoroughness because both dog and owner have to be compatible. Finally, if accepted, I get to travel to Florida for a two-week orientation program where I am paired with my dog and both of us will be trained together.
Dogs have been present throughout my whole medical ordeal. My first experience was while I was still in ICU and a sweet Bernese Mountain Dog named Carly visited my bedside. I would simply pet her head and it would make me feel better. During rehab, I interacted with three other dogs: Barboza, Galleon, and Frosty. I worked with Barboza the most. He is a facility dog at Shepherd Pathways and belongs to the facility’s Exercise Scientist. Since he is a facility dog, he is trained to assist multiple patients with different needs. He helped me open doors, work on my speech, prevent falls, strengthen my right hand by fetching my ball throws and brushing – which he suffered through. He also kept me company while I worked out and was fitted for casts. He was an absolutely wonderful friend. I have had dogs in my life since birth and Barboza’s assurance was priceless.
My parents own three dogs and that has been a major eye-opener. It has demonstrated why the pairing of patient and dog is so important. One dog refuses to make way for my wheelchair and just blocks my path, while another is so food oriented that I have to be careful not to drop a pill or he will fight for it like it’s a treat. The third is snuggly and is content sitting on my lap to keep me warm. They all support my recovery and make my life more normal.
I’m so excited about getting approved to have my own service dog! This is a new journey and I’m ready for the next step.
– Maggie McClellan, Springible Contributor
Check out a few organizations that are doing a great job helping those who need service dogs!