Monday, July 30, 2012

Still waiting

The last time I talked to the my CA contact she said the board would be meeting at the end of July to decide if we would be approved for another dog. Well, tomorrow is the last day of July and I still haven't heard anything. Of course, my mind is racing with possibly reasons, ranging from they forgot about us to they said 'heck no'. I'm trying to be patient, which is never easy for me. I really want to call, but I will try to hold off until next week. I don't want to bug them in case it would come back to bite me in the butt. I mean, what if someone said "You know, we think M would really benefit from a dog, but her mom is such a nag! There is no way we would place a dog with such a nag." See how my thought process goes?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's a good sign

I'm sneaking this post in at work because it's too good not to share. I heard back from the contact person.. It sounds like we should be approved for another dog! It's not official until the board meets at the end of the month, but things are looking very positive. The problem we're going to have is finding a dog that's very gentle.
Still, it looks like we'll be clearing one major hurdle!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Exploring the options

With the whole CA situation up in the air, I'm staring to look at several different options regarding a service dog for Mika. I have only recently started exploring options, so my list is very incomplete, but here's what I have so far:

1. Try a different agency.  I am starting to look all over again. There are several pros and cons for getting a dog from a group. Some charge a huge amount of money, like $20,000+, which is way beyond what I can afford. There are some non-profits that will place a dog for free, but then we have to go back through the whole application process and the 3-4 year wait. The big plus about an agency is that you will get a dog that is trained (for the most part) so you will hopefully just need to keep up the training, not start from scratch.
Pros: an already trained dog                        Cons: lots of money or a long, long wait

2. Train our own. This is something I never would have considered a year ago. At this point, it's something I am very seriously considering. We would literally get a dog and train it ourselves to be a service dog. My first instinct is to get an adult dog from the pound and work with it, but all the service dog trainers and books I've read say it's actually very hard to make that work. The ideal time to start working with a dog is as a young puppy, and a lot of the dogs in the shelters come with issues of their own that they need to work through.

While I don't like the puppy stage as a general rule, there are big benefits from getting a puppy from a breeder and working upwards. When you get it from a breeder, you know the health history of both parents. It's very important to know if there is a family history of common diseases like hip dysplasia or cataracts, etc. And you can get a very general idea of the potential size of the dog and temperament. If both of the parents are large 70+ lb dogs, the odds of you getting a 30 lb dog aren't good. And it would allow for a strong bond to form between M and the dog, because they would be together as soon as the puppy is 8 weeks old.

There are significant downsides to this, of course. Number 1 is the cost. A purebred puppy may cost $1000, not including all the costs of shots, spay/neutering, and meds. And it's really expensive if the puppy gets sick or hurt and requires more vet care. Hey, it cost $130 to get Fern's two x-rays and emergency vet visit and that's WITH a 25% discount! There are classes and training we can take with certified service dog trainers, but those cost around  $1000/each level. I know there are people who can pay that without batting an eye, but that's a huge amount of money for me.

A service dog in training doesn't have the same access rights as a full fledged service dog. I would have to pay a pet deposit and pet rent per month while the dog was training because it wouldn't qualify as a service dog yet. And I still can't figure out the rules for access to public buildings with a dog in training.
Pros: early bonding and training opportunities        Cons: cost, lack of legal protection, the puppy stage

I don't know what to do. I guess I have more research to do while I wait to hear from CA.

And now we wait

Even while we were making arrangements for Fern to return I was asking about getting a new dog.  At camp they acknowledged that sometimes things don't work out, no matter how hard everyone works. They said that if things weren't working, it would best for the dog to return and the recipient get a new one. It sounded like they were understanding and, while not ideal, it happened and they would help you get a dog as soon as possible. In their documentary "Through a Dog's Eyes", they had something like that happen to a little boy and the video ended with them saying that the dog was going back and they would get a different dog. Now I wonder if they really did.

After significant pushing on my part, I finally got some answers out of CA, but they were not reassuring. Apparently our case will have to be reviewed by the "board". I have no idea who the board is, or what they do, but they have to review our case. Then they will be the ones that say we can or can not receive another dog. As of last month, there was no meeting time set and she doesn't know when they will next meet. She took pity on me and talked to the owner of CA about our case. The owner said she didn't see any reason we couldn't have another dog placed, which greatly relieves me. Of course, it's non-binding, but that has to be a great sign.

And now here's more bad news. If we get approved (I'm cautiously optimistic now that we will), we may have a long wait. They said we would need a "pretty laid back" dog, which may take some time to find. (Why didn't they notice that during the three year wait?) If they find one for M fairly soon, we would probably fly out to CA for a 3 or 4 day trip, hopefully over a weekend, so they can see if the match will work. If it takes a long time, we would have to do the training camp all over again. Essentially, they could put us back on the waiting list for another 3 years and make us start from scratch.

M is understandably upset. We both tried so hard with Fern, doing everything they said to and completely wrapping our lives around her. When things just didn't work out, we did exactly what they said and returned her instead of just keeping her as a pet and ignoring her lack of bond with M. How would it not be a punishment for them to tell us we couldn't get another dog? Or make us wait another 3 years? That would be a punishment for being honest instead of self-serving. M alternates between being mad at CA for not agreeing to another dog immediately and being hurt they are doubting her. I can understand her feelings. This is when the dog would do so much good. There are times M feels so left out because she can't do sports and only modified PE classes. She stands out because something is always in a splint or brace and she misses a lot of school. Even though Fern could be very naughty, she was still there for Mika to cuddle with when she was hurting.

So now we're in a holding pattern. I sent off an email yesterday to the outreach contact just saying I'm doing a one month post-Fern check in, letting you know we're still very interested in receiving a different dog. I asked if there was a board meeting scheduled or if there was any other information available. I'm not hopeful of getting a response with any helpful information. The unknown is so hard. When I submitted M's application way back in 2008 we knew within 2 months that we were approved. I only wish that would happen now.