Service Dog Shuffle
Over a year ago, I made a decision I didn't think I'd be making as a then, 27/28-year-old. After experiencing some of the worst MS symptoms I'd had by then, I realized my independence needed to become a priority. I've had such wonderful help from friends and family, but debilitating symptoms can really set someone back mentally. Moments, when I was suddenly unable to do things I seemingly do every day without thought, would emotionally overshadow the fact that I had all the help I could ask for. It wasn't ME doing those things, and that took a toll. It wasn't so much my mother coming to straighten up the place or someone bringing me dinner, but more so walking to the bathroom, picking myself up off the floor, and planning shopping trips around other people's schedules.
SIT Service dogs
At that point, I chose to look into solutions, and I came across the option of a service dog. I did a lot of research and chose an organization called SIT Service dogs. A phone interview later I learned how intensive their training program was, and it made me feel extremely comfortable. It's a big decision, after all. I needed to get a prescription from my doctor and send in an evaluation of my personality and needs.
A hefty price tag
Along with the excitement of having a companion to aid in my independence, came a hefty price tag, however. The service dog would cost $12,000 whether I paid it all out of pocket, by fundraising, or a combination of the two. The total cost of the dog is twice that, but SIT covers the other half. Still, it's an incredibly intimidating number.
My fundraising experience
I started a GoFundMe and started researching other fundraising methods. The GoFundMe began great. In a relatively short amount of time, I was able to raise the $3,000 deposit needed to enroll me in the program officially. Since then, I've done a t-shirt campaign and a few benefit nights at a couple of restaurants. The benefit nights did not go well, as the percentage of each sale that would be donated to me was incredibly low. Despite a lot of disappointments, my family and friends came through, and as a result, I'm on the home stretch of finishing my payments. The downside is, I've been stuck at that same point for quite some time now. I've called and emailed a lot of different local businesses, and many of them don't respond to my inquiries about hosting a fundraising event. It's also incredibly hard to coordinate it all on my own. I work ten hours a day, which I know is a blessing that I can even still work in the first place. But, the other side of that is I don't have a lot of free time or opportunities to contact people repeatedly.
An uphill, exhausting battle
Regardless, this service dog would help me immensely, and despite a long stall in the process, I am determined to reach my fundraising goal. There are programs out there that offer free or cheaper service dogs, but SIT Service Dogs was undoubtedly the best decision for me despite the price tag. For anyone who is looking into a service dog, my advice would be to do extensive research and be confident in your decision. SIT's program was right for me, my symptoms, and my needs, but that differs from person to person. I'd also say to keep your head up, no matter what. Fundraising can be an uphill, exhausting battle. I always feel like I'm asking too much of people, and that I won't get out of this rut. I'm harder on myself than I should be, I think. I've kept up the GoFundMe and plan on posting the link to my family and friends soon, now that the holidays are over. Hopefully, soon I'll reach my goal, but until then I keep reminding myself of how it's all going to be worth it.
I think that is the main thing I would like people to take from this story. If you've made a decision for your life with MS and you're confident in it, then stay confident and secure. You made that choice for a reason, and perhaps no one but you understands it, but that's ok. MS is incredibly personal by nature, so what is right for you may not be right for your neighbor's, mother's, cousin's husband that you hear about constantly, and vice versa. If anyone else is going through this or anything similar, I stand (briefly, but then I'll sit) with you, and good luck!
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