Saturday, June 23, 2012

Slugger's Story

I first heard about seizure alert dogs from my grandmother, who had seen a program on television about them. It turned out that they were really expensive and agencies only gave them to adults who had lots of seizures. My epilepsy was fairly controlled at the time. We never really talked about it again.

Fast forward-I went to college and this same grandmother mentioned that I should get a service dog to live with me. At this point, the internet was up and running so I did a search. There was not a lot of information out there. The more I thought about it though, why would I want a dog with me all of the time? I was having a hard enough time talking about my seizure disorder to potential friends and prospects. Taking a dog with me everywhere was like pasting a sign on my forehead that said, "She's different!" At this point in my life I was trying to prove my independence and fit in, not stand out.

Fast forward, again-I became a social worker and decided that I wanted to apply for a service dog that I could take to work with me, to help my patients. As a bonus it could live with me, and maybe alert to seizures. I sent in my application and was told the waiting list was 5-7 years.

Time moved on and things changed. I never reached the top of the waiting list since I was rarely having seizures and there were others that "had a greater need". I understood that, but wasn't that what a waiting list was all about? I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never be able to get a dog to help people I worked with and to possibly help me.

Cole came along and I started thinking about service dogs before we even got his Dravet diagnosis. I called 6 different agencies, and not one of them would place a seizure alert dog with a child under 5 years old. I was so frustrated. I wasn't sure if Cole was going to make it to age 5 (sad, but true). I went to the Dravet conference and saw multiple service dogs there. One person that I made friends with had just finished fundraising for her son, who was the same age as Cole, through 4 Paws for Ability. I had seen their website during my search, but they were in Ohio. I lived in Utah. I had not really delved into their mission. She explained to me about the fundraising and that they could place a dog with my son. That was all I needed.

I came home from that conference with an overwhelmed feeling, having just caught a glimpse of my future. I did, however, have a fresh resolve to get the very best for my son. I single handedly organized a fundraiser and I was not going to look back. To learn more about that part of our story, go back to the fall of 2010 in our archives.

We raised our money, got approved and had to hurry up and wait. Turns out that we had to wait longer than anticipated, but Slugger was worth every tear shed and every day that I thought, "I could really use that dog right about now!"

We finally got to meet our furry family member in October 2011 at 4 Paws for Ability. There is a lot of emotion that I still feel, 9 months later when I think of that day and this video.

We gained many friends through our 4 Paws journey and had a wonderful, tiring time at training. If you want to read about our time at training, click here
Life with Slugger has not been easy. It is really like bringing another baby into the family-one that sheds! All of that training, all of those commands have now become second nature. There are still bumps in the road, but he truly is the perfect dog for Cole. He is so patient and has the perfect personality to fit in with us.
To those of you who are thinking about getting a service dog, I say-Do it. It will not be easy, but the rewards that you get are a totally worth it. Slugger has brought so much to our family.
So even though he does dumb things sometimes and there are days when I wish that I could shave him, he is my baby's best friend and guardian angel here on earth. I would not have it any other way.

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Photos by Capture Me Candid