Monday, 16 December 2013

Service Dog Blues and An Upsetting Night

We've been on the fence about deciding whether or not to apply for a service dog for about a year now.  We go back and forth.  On the pro side: Alex could use the help and companionship, it would allow us to go out in public without worrying about him bolting (or at least, with having a tool to help with that particular problem), it would allow us to stop worrying that he's left his room at night.  On the not-so-pro-side: we wondered if Alex really needed the help of a dog since his bolting and listening have both been improving, could we manage a large dog and its' needs (walks, vet bills, etc.),

On the weekend, we watched Paws For Autism, a documentary about two families who got service dogs.  We saw so many aspects of our family in them: multiple locks and alarms on the doors to prevent their child from wandering, difficulty going out shopping, the lack of social connections and friendships available to their children.  It tipped us over the edge.  We decided to go ahead and apply.

Then, when I went to look at the National Service Dogs website, I saw that they provide service dogs for autistic children ages 2 to 10.  Alex is nine and a half and there is a two year wait from the time your application is approved before you get your dog.  When I looked at the application for approval, it said for ages 2 to 8 (presumably accounting for that 2 year gap).

I was deeply upset and had trouble sleeping that night.  Does this mean my back and forth dithering has prevented Alex from having a service dog?  The thought that my uncertainty may have deprived my child of a valuable tool and a possible companion stole any hope of peaceful rest.

I'm planning to call National Service Dogs and ask for clarification to see what our options are.  After a sleepless night, I have some sense of alternatives if they flat out won't or can't help us.  If we're primarily looking for a companion for Alex, then we don't necessarily need a specially trained service dog.  A good tempered dog with a healthy social interest could be trained independently as a pet for him.  A dog who could be trained to alert us and follow him if he was bolting would be great, but we've made progress on that front.

I'm wondering if I'm justifying things to myself in a sour-grapes-esque kind of way (we don't really need some smelly old awesome dog) because 24 hours ago, I was gung-ho and convinced this was the way to go.  At least I can let all my readers know: if you're considering it, get the application in because you don't want to miss this opportunity.

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