Our search for a PTSD Service Dog for me has been an ongoing process for the past 2 years. This is not something we took lightly. I spent countless hours researching what exactly a PTSD Service Dog is supposed to do, the difference between an Emotional Support Dog versus a Service Dog. Which one would better suit my needs? What did I need it to do for me? What would my role be in the maintaining of the dog? How long would I have to wait until I recieved a dog if I qualified for one? Would bringing in a 2 year old dog into my house be a good idea with Reine? Could we keep our other animals? These were just some of the many questions that I researched.
I have contacted numerous organizations over the last 2 years. I was told the same thing over and over again.
- Because I am not a Military Vet, I did not meet the guidelines for more than 1/2 of the PTSD Service Dog Organizations.
- Many of organizations that I did meet the initial guidelines, would not allow us to have any other pets in the home, forcing us to surrender all our pets. I could not do that to my family.
- Other organizations that were fine with our pets were no longer taking applications as the wait for their dogs exceeded 4 years.
- Then there were the organizations that if I did meet ALL the criteria and would gladly give me a PTSD Service Dog provided we pay $20,000-$40,000 for the dog. This did not include other expenses . I would need to pay a nonrefundable application fee. Next, I would need to fly a representative to Maryland, pay for their room and board and all expenses while they were here doing a house check. This could take up to a week. Then I would need to secure a hefty deposit on a Service Dog. This way they knew I was serious about wanting one of their Service Dogs. After a 2-4 year wait list, I would then need to fly with a companion to the organization’s training facility for up to 4 weeks, where I would be responsible for airfare or gas, all lodging, food etc for 2 of us. Then I would meet the dog, imprint with it, learn the commands, hope I knew what I was doing with it and that Reine would accept it and it accept her.
None of these options were the best for us. I started to think outside of the box.
There is no denying that Service Dogs are expensive to train. The organizations have to pay for the pups (some are donated to the organizations for free or for a discounted price), all vet bills including all shots, boosters, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spay or neutering (some veterinarians will donate their services for a discount), foster care, INTENSE training, certifications, halters, collars, leads, and vests. Not all dogs will make the cut to be a Service Dog. Many fail the training within the first year.
But what would the price be if we decided to raise and train a Service Dog as a puppy ourselves with help from private trainers? Could this be done? Could the dog also be trained as an Autism Service Dog for Reine?
This led us onto a completely different path. I began contacting “local” trainers that specialized in Service Dogs. Local meaning within a 2 hour drive from our home. I was given name after name from different trainers. All agreed that what I was trying to do was VERY much something we could do. I just needed to find the right trainer that would be willing to work with me.
I was led to a “local” Not For Profit organization that decided I was worth helping. After lengthy emails back and forth, online reviews, and reference checking, we decided to go with them when time came. We agreed that a puppy was the best alternative for me. It would be able to be trained for both myself and for Reine. It would pull double duty. This is possible as Reine will be homeschooled and is with me all the time. Also, it would learn my PTSD inside and out and the imprint with me would be rock SOLID. We agreed to a price to cover only the training time.
I then contacted our veterinarian to find out the cost we would need for the first 6 months of care. This would include ALL boosters, shots, health checks, deworming, microchipping and spay or neutering. After the the first 6 months, everything else would be routine check ups.
Next I began to research breeds. Shelter versus pure breed. We opted to go pure breed as I would be able to see parents, lineage, health checks, etc. Shelter dogs have close to 80% failure rate of becoming a Service Dog. Pure breeds have about 25% failure rate. What breed would work best for us? We decided to go with either a Lab, Golden Retriever, or German Shepherd.
Breeders were my next subject for research. I wanted a reputable breeder not a puppy mill type breeder. I began contacting “local” breeders within a 5 hour drive from our home. This search went through multiple states. Let me be clear, I was NOT asking for them to donate a puppy to me. I was hoping that they would be able to offer me some kind of a discount, even if that meant a partial refund once the pup finally reached Service Dog status (which would be within 2 years). This would benefit both the breeder and myself. Being able to say that one of your pups is a trained Service Dog is a big selling point. The going price for a pure breed in our area ranges from $2,500-$3,500. Most breeders were not willing to work with me at all. One breeder was nice enough to send my info to another breeder over 10 hours away. However, I did find a breeder that was willing to do just that….work with me. They are a small local (3 hour drive) breeder.
We had a price down for training, vet care, and now the cost of the pup. How do we pay for it?
We set up a gofundme page. It was up for a couple of weeks and no one donated it. Only about 2 of my friends shared my page via any social media. It was clear to us that this was NOT the way to go. We opted to go a different route and took out a loan so that we could begin this journey. The Gofundme page will remain up as I would LOVE to pay off the loan asap. The loan did not cover the second year of training. We still need to save up the rest of the money and pay for the loan. The link for my Gofundme page can be found here and on my home page.
Everything happened so quickly and in a reverse order to the way we thought it would happen. We got the trainer first, the vet estimates next, then the pup, and finally the money to pay for part of it.
We chose to go with a German Shepherd breeder in Virginia, Nordhausen Kennels. Her lines are Czech Hungarian. It took them over 2 years to find the exact dogs they wanted to breed. Their dogs are bred specifically to be used for Service Dogs in temperament, health, and demeanor. This includes Search and Rescue, Police K-9, Psychiatric Service Dogs, and Special Needs Service Dogs. They only breed once a year and rotate between females so that their bodies are allowed to come back from being pregnant and to take a much needed break. They are not in it for the money, but rather have a strong passion and love for the breed. It shows! To say I was impressed with them would be an understatement. They do not have a website but I hope that that is something that will change very soon. They have a waiting list for next year’s litter already.
We chose a female German Shepherd Dog just shy of turning 8 weeks old. Her official name (from when we registered her with the AKC) is Quoth The Raven “Nevermore”. It is my favorite poem. But we will call her Raven for short. I chose the name Raven because in many religions (my own included) they symbolize transition, rebirth, are messengers from the Gods and Goddesses, are thought to know the future, and overall are considered very lucky to have in your life. All of which I feel when I look into the eyes of this puppy. She is my blessing wrapped inside of a furry spirited little body.
You will see updates on Simplicity Redesigned as Raven and I begin our journey together and I take back my life from PTSD. Here is the first couple of adventures and updates for you all.
First Vet Appointment
She is a HEALTHY pup weighing in at 17.10 pounds. She began her first full series of boosters she will need to be able to help her fight off anything that she comes into contact with. No deworming was needed at all. Shocked me and the vets office.
My Huskies (Avalanche and Tsunami) LOVE her for the most part. They are older (almost 10 and 9 yrs) so the CONSTANT chewing on them gets old sometimes.But she has brought back their playful side. When they are done, they let her know nicely.
My cat (Famine) on the other hand is a completely different story. She LOATHES Raven. It does not help that Raven is slightly bigger than her and thinks that she is a puppy too. Somehow, hissing, spitting, snarling (because we are now WAY past growling) and death glares have not detoured Raven from attempting to pull the cat’s tail to try to get her to play with her. Famine has figured out that she can torment Raven by teasing her up the stairs. Raven is just now learning to climb stairs. She is great at the climb up, but the climb down has NOT been attempted yet. So Famine gets Raven to climb to the top step and then races down past her and sits on the steps below her. Meowing and rubbing all over the steps tormenting Raven.
OH AND SHE IS NOT A FAN OF HER KENNEL AT ALL!!! LOL, thankfully it is only being used for when I go to sleep at night right now. We are working it out so that she is with me all the times to help with the imprinting.