Today marks 60 days until J meets his fur-ever friend. It would be a complete understatement to say we are excited. He is understanding finally what we are going to be doing and he, like most 4 year olds, wants results right this second. He has a stuffed Nonie (Baby Nonie Dog) and I am trying to keep him as busy as I can manage. He does not start school until September 9th however, so until then I am going to be hearing a lot about “Yeh-no” and “Nonie Dog”.
I could not be happier.
Since we have engaged in full boogie tilt fundraising for our trip, I have received a lot of comments and questions various places. The biggest comment is on the amount we fundraised initially to receive J’s dog: $13,000.
That’s a big amount, unless you’re some ginormously wealthy soul. That’s an overwhelming on paper to a small family. It is true that most if not all of the people I talk to regularly or know cannot simply plunk that down. It’s just not possible, and thus makes a service dog for our children seem wildly out of reach.
4 Paws knows this. They get this. They do not want their dogs to be inaccessible due to money. This is why when you get accepted into the program, the agreement you sign is not to pay $13,000* but to fundraise and share the mission of 4 Paws for Ability. It is but a part of the cost to raise and train our dog, and in fundraising we’re raising community awareness of just what service dogs can do for the disabled – both children and adults, though 4 Paws keeps their focus on children and veterans.
We spent 6 months fundraising. It was hard. There were times it was absolutely painful, I dare to say, yet it is so worth it. It is worth it beyond the amount we raised, and worth it beyond what I can put into words. That money will provide my son with something I could not otherwise give him: He will have a companion and a guardian in this dog. He does not have to be scared. His family does not have to be scared. If, God forbid, J ever got away from us this dog will track him down straight away.
That. That right there, added to everything else this dog will be trained to task for, can’t have a price tag placed on it.
We have also gained through this process a phenomenal support group of 4 Paws families. I have made some fantastic friends and look forward to making more through this journey. We also gain a backup. If anything should happen with J’s dog, they’re there for us. If the dog needs refresher training, they are there for us. If we have any confusion or struggles once we are home, they’re a phone call away. They want us to succeed and give us every tool by which to do so.
Is it worth $13,000? Yes. Again and again, yes.
*= The current amount one must fundraise if they join the program today is $14,000. This is still just a part of the $22,000-$24,000 it takes to breed, raise, train and support a well-trained service dog.