After applying for a service dog, the process continues with an assessment. My assessment started with a phone call. A lady from the organisation asked me more questions about why I thought a service dog was the right choice for me. She also explained more about the organisation. At the end of the call, we made an appointment for a house visit.
A number of days later a different lady arrived at my house along with a kind man and a service dog in training. I don’t think I have ever been asked so many questions. I was able to answer them easily. Eventually we came to the topic of taking the dog for walks. I explained that I needed help with this. I am almost blind and use a wheelchair. I can’t go outside independently. I also can’t drive an electric wheelchair, so a combination of guide dog and service dog, wasn’t an option. I explained that my house mate and care giver Jessica, would take the dog out before and after work and I would look for someone to help me take him out in the middle of the day. Or we would use a dog walking service.
At the end of the conversation I was informed that I would receive a phone call when they had reviewed all the information from the assessment.
The phone call I received wasn’t pleasant. I was told that my application for a service dog was refused. The reason; because I couldn’t independently take a dog for a walk. I was disappointed and frustrated but I remained calm. I explained that I didn’t understand their decision. They frequently gave service dogs to young children with autism. These children also don’t walk independently with their dogs. Why are my circumstances different? The lady on the phone understood my point. She would discuss it with colleagues and call back.
The follow up call didn’t come for a few days. When it did, I was very surprised. The organisation hadn’t changed their decision. However, the man who was present at my assessment also worked for a different organisation called Personal Service Dogs. If I could find someone to help me walk my dog during the day, they would provide me with a service dog.
So my first real challenge began. I needed someone who wasn’t only willing to push me in my wheelchair. Being able to walk the dog myself, correcting him when he does something wrong, giving him commands and rewarding him for good behaviour is something very important to me. This meant I needed eyes. I shared a short version of my story on the website VraagElkaar and asked if anyone wanted to help. Within 24 hours, I had two very willing buddy’s. It quickly became obvious that we get on really well together. I could be put on the Service Dogs waiting list. A year later, the walks outside are a lot of fun. My buddy’s are great people I can talk to and make jokes with. They’re also a fantastic pair of eyes. It’s a great example of Flip Thinking. Staying calm in a frustrating situation and asking questions that help others see your situation differently, can really get you a long way.
photo: credits for vraagelkaar