A LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER:
Because I thought I was alone.
Everyone had been trying to convince me for years that I needed a service animal. I lost Mazzy in 2010- she was everything to me. I didn’t want another heartbreaker. It was the summer of 2015. I had effectively lost full use of my body from the waist down; I was in the middle of a traumatic and emotional divorce; I was working 60 hours a week in a hostile environment, from my hospital bed; and I was suffering from acute persistent combat PTSD. NO DOGS ALLOWED, in my mind.
But after much persuasion from dozens of medical experts and my closest support network- I took the prescription and recommended places to apply for a service animal. I would need one for mobility and PTSD. Two conflicting interests when it comes to service animals.
Getting the dog was fairly straight forward. Dealing with the condition of the dog upon receipt, amidst dealing with my own conditions proved to exacerbate both my physical and mental conditions. I got Chako for free from an extremely well-intentioned non-profit whose demand had outstripped its capacity to properly oversee the future service dogs’ welfare. As a result, Chako was delivered battered, malnourished, parasite-laden, flea infested and terrified. It took, and is still taking, thousands of dollars to undo the damage from a single human being; I am still trying to cope with the significant social anxiety Chako brings for the attention he gets, and that, I can no longer tolerate. Imagine. The socialite unable to take the heat...no one who knew me when would believe it.
To make a long and painful story short, if it weren’t for my blessed circumstances, I would not have survived the devastation my PTSD and injuries caused. I still start to panic when I think of how closely I came to falling prey to my dysfunction. I had a very small handful of people, I can count them on one hand, who stuck by me through years of agony. Additionally, I had the fortunate circumstances to (barely) survive the financial devastation of having my income cut by two-thirds upon retirement- leaving me unable to pay my mortgage and therefore having to move, being unable to work, and dealing with a very broken service animal that I was supposed to rely on to get me through it all. One I love so much, there’s no way I could ever abandon him. So I didn’t; and we are yet to be set right as a service animal family. If it weren’t for my support network, Chako and I wouldn’t have made it to this point. Not everyone has these luxuries in life.
Service animals are 100% effective. It’s been proven, and I’ll footnote this later if someone doesn’t beat me to it. But only if they are in a conducive environment AFTER they have been placed in a home. Even though I suffer terribly from having to take my giant billboard announcing everything that’s wrong with me, and not to distract him lest he dart and pull me down, over our years together, Chako and I heard a few too many stories about similar circumstances for veterans and first responders. Service animals often become too big a burden for the owner to bear. As a result, they cause further problems within the service animal family. Most commonly, the challenges can be due to antiquated training tactics; require costly veterinary maintenance and dietary requirements, proper documentation to travel, and very costly up-level training- none of which is provided by any entity as part of a long-term support process.
Given Chako’s pedigree, training investment, veterinary maintenance, skill level maintenance, and demanding day-to-day care and feeding, he is estimated to be worth over $60,000 a year. Yet I cannot insure him. If he dies, I have to start all over again. If he lashes out at someone, I could be legally rendered destitute due to damages. If I can barely afford a studio apartment on my $2,000 month pension and disability, if I can’t reliably work due to physical and mental dysfunction from fighting for my country; if my husband divorced me and all of my friends fell away because they simply couldn’t comprehend what had happened to me; if I lived in a pit of despair for alienating everyone out of shame; if I suffered neurological damage causing amnesia and erratic antisocial behavior; and, if my family had not had the capacity to help me, I would be on the “Wrong Side of Heaven”, by Five Finger Death Punch. (Ref: YouTube video.)
The reason service animals are ineffective is because there are no mechanisms to assist the owner in maintaining the animal over its lifetime once received. Nor are owners properly educated as to the second and third order life effects bringing a service animal into a family can being. Maintaining a service animal’s effectiveness should be fun for the whole family. Yet a lack of awareness, high demand, and no long term care capacity to support means large numbers are entering service, then subsequently leaving service due to improper training and integration into the handler’s lifestyle, causing trauma to the animal, it’s owner and the owner’s family.
It is my goal in life to establish an organization that will assist those with service animals maintain the same quality of life others who don’t suffer these challenges, should they so choose. The skeleton Board of Directors has established a network of affiliates to assist with K9 training and rehabilitation, physical and mental heal counseling, and lifestyle management specialists ready to provide help. Additionally, it is working feverishly to codify plans for establishing a local community center, Nature and Wildlife Preserve with activities and walking trails, and a K9 and equestrian therapy center and weekend retreat......and I’m brain dead!.....