Really, this story starts in February with a very hard truth that I had to accept. I had to accept that even though I had been doing really well I was no longer coping with my PTSD effectively on my own and that I desperately needed help. I was honest with my friend, Gabrielle, who stories I love illustrating, but whose schedule has been affected by my disorder. I got some good advice from her and she pointed me in the directions of a fabulous therapist and the idea of a service dog for PTSD.
My therapist got to know me and my unique issues and I did a lot of research until we did both agree that a service dog would benefit me in a big way. I began to read and watch everything I had access to on the net and I spent a lot of time really looking at my life and trying to decide if this was something I could handle. I’ve gotten so much advice at this point that I’m not sure what to do with it all, as some of it is conflicting.
And conflicting information is really hard for me to deal with. There’s no way I can afford to go through an organization, they can cost anywhere from $20,000-$40,000. It was apparent pretty early on that the only chance I’d have is to train a service dog myself.
But that’s a huge task! And while I know how to teach the basics, I have no idea how to train a dog to snap me out of a panic attack or a flash back or to wake me up during a nightmare. On top of that there’s all kinds of questions like should I buy from a breeder so it’s health is more reliable in the long run or should I adopt a shelter dog because they really are just as good? Should I get an adult or a puppy? All of these have different things to think about.
It was really too much for me to feel comfortable making a decision with no direction. As much information as I can find online, there’s still so many things I need to know about the socialization and training process. I started getting really stressed when trying to think about what the hell I was supposed to be doing and planning for. It’s generally much harder for my to feel confident about making decisions for myself. I had talked to my Gransparents, a very few select friends, and my therapist about this decision, but not really anyone else.
But I digress. How does all this have anything to with the bet I made Grandpa and that adorable dog named Bob?
From reading Part 1, you know Gramps has lots of business ideas and lots of trouble with computers and the internet. He needs lots of help running his blogging business, but I really don’t want to run it for him and he essentially needs someone to do that for him, or to sit there and explain a lot of stuff every day or several times a week.
I’ve been feeling like shit because my own mental health often keeps me from doing anything productive for myself, that doesn’t really leave a lot left over for also helping someone to run a business from home. I’ve been feeling really guilty that I just can’t do a lot for him. I have no money to give him. I can’t do all the things he needs help with, I don’t have the skill or energy. I can’t make him physically less ill.
Well, when I was doing research for my own dog, I found lots of lists with tasks service dogs can be trained for to make their handler’s lives better. It clicked into place really quickly, the idea of how much a service dog would help Gramps around the house. He falls a lot. There have been a lot of times where he’ll lose his balance and spin around and crack his head on something ten feet away. Sometimes, if there’s not something sturdy nearby he can’t get up by himself. I’ve found him on the floor in a few places where he just couldn’t stand on his own. My paternal grandfather died because he fell in his home and couldn’t get up. He laid there for three days before someone did check on him and he died of pneumonia in the hospital. I do not want this to happen to Grandpa Jim.
So I was thinking about all that and I’d also been looking around at adoptable dogs. Bob had been on my radar, but I didn’t think much about it because I wasn’t ready to make my decision. At some point I realized Bob was big enough to help Gramps brace if he falls.
So that’s when the idea began. I started talking to his Foster person, asking all sorts of questions about the dog. We talked for a couple of days before I sat up a time to go see her. And then I sat down and had a talk with Grandpa.
I explained my idea. I don’t know if Bob will make it as a service dog, but at the least, he can give us something to do together and more importantly, he can keep an eye on Grandpa around the house. Bob can give Gramps companionship when he’s lonely, depressed, or unable to communicate his feelings with a person.
He told me that he’d actually been thinking about getting a dog to keep him company. I showed him a picture of Bob and told him I sat up a meeting on Tuesday. I told Granny as well and talked to her about it and we all made plans to go together.
Waiting for Tuesday was damn difficult and I only had to get through Sunday night and Monday, but the time did eventually come and we all drove to Killeen to meet Bob.
Everything went fantastically. Bob was adorable and sweet and very friendly. The kids made lots of racket and played with him. I walked him around on the leash to make sure he had manners as Gramp’s would need to be able to handle him.
Once all that was decided, it made more sense to me that our videos would feature this project heavily because with both I don’t know where the hell we’d find the time or energy to accomplish everything.
We’re going to work out the budget and equipment details tomorrow and start making space for the dog and cleaning up the yard. We’ll have the adoption papers signed before the week is over.
This will help assuage my guilt at not being able to help Grandpa. It’ll also give me some structure and something to be responsible for, as Gramps needs to be able to rely on Bob’s good behavior and willingness to obey the commands we teach him. It’ll give us a good project to work on together, and that’s really cool.
And as far as I go, well, I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to buy a puppy from a breeder or adopt a dog from a shelter. If I get one from a breeder, I may have finally picked out a place that looks trustworthy, but damn, German Shepherds are expensive and White American Shepherds more so. (I was looking at the second because someone told me they were healthier dogs, or lived longer or had fewer dysplasia problems or something.)
If I get one from a shelter, than I have to go through this process all over again, except I have to be even more on my shit because here I am needing to pick out a dog that can be trained to sense my anxiety spikes. Either way, it’ll take me about a year to save up to buy one (and if I adopt that money can be put towards training, or paying someone to locate an adult dog with potential.)
So that’s the story behind the bet. I hope you stay to enjoy the show.