Many people have wondered why we need to raise funds for Max’s service dog, so I would like to address that.
There are a few charities that do provide service dogs at no cost to the family, (but at $30,000 to $40,000 cost to that charity) but for a variety of reasons we’ve made the decision to fund a dog through ASDBC. It is a small, local organization that does not yet have a fundraising staff to enable them to provide “free” dogs, as many larger charity organizations do.
Our primary reason for choosing them, is that the wait list for a dog from the other charities is two to three years long, and Max’s need is urgent. Many charities have simply closed their waiting lists altogether because the wait is too long to be of any use.
The organizations with open waiting lists are located in Ontario and we’re in BC. So after our two to three year wait, the process would go like this: At the time of writing this the rules are that the parents have to fly out for training, without the child. A key feature of Max’s condition is Separation Anxiety. The separation from one parent, much less both parents, for over a week would be so traumatic for him. The trauma would make him highly challenging to manage for whomever he was left with, and recovery from the trauma would take a long time. Bonding with a new furry family member would be a challenge for him in that state. We did consider this option deeply, but decided it would be a last resort for our family.
The cost of two plane tickets and two weeks in another province would be up to us. That cost alone would put us at about a third or a half the cost of a local dog.
But wait lists and finances aside, another reason is that most of these big organizations reserve the right to take the dog away if the child should appear to no longer need it. I sincerely hope this is just a legal fine print thing that never actually happens, but it is an upsetting thought to say the least. For an autistic kid to bond with an animal so deeply as one does with a service dog and have the risk of the dog being taken away…it’s unthinkable.
Finally, and so importantly, we chose the local guys because they are willing to make the introduction of the dog to the family at a slow and gradual pace best suited to Max’s needs. It literally took Max 6 months before he was willing to acknowledge his baby sister when we added her to the family. He needs a lot of time to warm up to a big lifestyle change like this.
Autism Service Dogs BC will allow Max to meet their dogs in training and spend time with them to ensure there’s a good match. They consider temperament, energy level, and all factors of compatibility. It’s not just the next dog available who has the training. That’s part of the expense too. For every dog placed, several dogs are trained. They’ll let Max visit and bond with his best match BEFORE we take the dog into our home.
Since Graeme and I are rookies at dog ownership, they are going to provide us with training in how to care for a dog, providing us with dog handling, grooming and walking experience well in advance of us taking our dog home.
Also before we take our dog home but after the match has been made, they will train our dog to be comfortable in all the locations our family likes to spend time in. Our work, school, bus routes, parks, grocery stores, etc. This allows for fewer surprises. Other organizations can only train a dog to be comfortable and operational in a variety of general settings. This is much more personal.
Finally, Autism Service Dogs BC also offers ongoing support. They will train our dog, should any new training be required, as needs arise for the working life of the dog.
The $25,000 cost includes purchase of the dog, food, vet bills and boarding during training. It pays the trainer for hundreds of hours of training the dog and the new family, both initially and for the dog’s lifetime. It’s a steal.
THANK YOU so much for helping us make the best possible choice for our family. Feel free to ask any questions you may have. We’re happy to answer them!