Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dog Update

Another option has arisen! I was doing some more digging and found something really cool. One of the problems we were going to run into with a service dog is Abby's age. Many agencies require children to be 8 and older before they will place a dog. While I am happy to wait I hate the idea of not moving forward with something that could be so awesome for her.

Well, one of the agencies I contacted e-mailed me back with a suggestion. They have something they call a Home Companion Dog that they offer for children younger than the required age of 8. Here is how it works. To train a service dog the agencies train twice as many dogs as they require. For a year to eighteen months a dog spend their time with either a trained inmate (through a special program) or a family who trains the dog to be housebroken, command trained and socialized. They also begin laying the groundwork for the training the dog will later received. After that first year or year and a half the agency assesses each dog and they "retire" any dog who has a medical or behavioral problem. The remaining dogs go through testing and the "cream of the crop" goes on for training as a full service dog. The remaining dogs are highly trained, well socialized dogs who are turned into Home Companion Dogs for children with disabilities but do not meet the age requirement. The best part is that Abby is eligible.

You must live within a specific distance of the facility (which we do) and you must go through an application and interview process. Because these dogs are trained to be companions for kids with medical, physical, emotional or sensory issues this sounds like such a fantastic opportunity for Abby. So we have made the decision to start the process. It takes between 6 months to 18 months from the time you submit your paperwork (which will take a couple of months) to be matched with a dog. Then you meet the dog, make sure it is a good fit, make a donation (less than $1,000) and adopt the dog.

So it will take a while but hopefully in the next year or so we will have a dog for Abby and for the rest of the family. I will make sure to post as we move though the process.

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