by Rita Guinta, Volunteer Creative Writer, Healing Companions, Inc.
My name is Cyndi and I appreciate this opportunity to share my story about my psychiatric service dog in training (PSDIT), Sage. She’s a beautiful, young, black Lab that came to me from a family that didn’t have the time to provide for her. They decided the best thing to do was rehome her. So, the family explored finding a non-profit that trains service dogs because Sage had the skills, temperament, trainability and potential. I cannot thank Healing Companions (HC) enough for bringing us together.
Now, Sage and I are just beginning our journey because dogs are not born service dogs. They are trained with highly advanced skills to be service dogs and to mitigate the effects of their handlers’ symptoms. Sage needs more of the individualized training HC tailors to a handlers’ needs. That’s me; I’m Sage’s handler.
I struggle to live my life, and work, with the symptoms of depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADD). So, Sage needs to be trained to do specific tasks to help me, especially in the workplace. HC has deemed Sage to have the potential to be a faithful service dog due to her intelligence, trainability, age and temperament. I need her to be trained to search a dark room and turn on a light before I enter in order to relieve anxiety. I also need her to learn to open a drawer to retrieve my medication at a certain time of day, so I don’t forget to take it. Her service dog training will include teaching her to recognize when I display signs of an imminent panic attack. She will assist me by pawing, nudging and leaning against me to focus my attention on her. In anxiety-producing situations, such as being approached by a stranger, Sage will be trained to sit between me and the stranger. In stressful indoor situations, she will be trained to retrieve her leash and drop it in my lap as a signal that she needs to go “potty” to provide a reason for my exit.
Of course, highly specific service dog training is expensive. Sage and I meet with the HC trainer every week to work on public access skills and task training. Then, I practice these skills with Sage every day. She is working on improving her basic behavior skills such as sit, heel, stay and more with distance, duration and distractions, too. Sage’s training process will take approximately two years. However, my recent battle with ovarian cancer has saddled me with devastating medical bills that make it difficult for me to pay for the completion of her service dog training.
In addition to Sage’s training, I want to give her the healthy and comfortable life every dog deserves, service dog or not. She needs nutritious food, vet care, etc. I work hard for a federal government agency and Sage has shown she’s a true service dog in her heart on the job. Bottom Line: I need to keep my job to help me pay for Sage’s service dog training and I need Sage to receive more training to help me to keep my job.
I want to continue to work. I want to live a productive life and contribute to society and I want to give Sage the good life every dog deserves. Once she is fully trained, my dream is that she can help me to take her to the park or to just sit in the sand on the beach with my arm wrapped around her. Any help you can give toward the completion of Sage’s service dog training would be greatly appreciated. Every $1.00 gift would mean so much to us.
I wish you could see Sage with her ears perked up and eyes shining while she pants with anticipation. She so wants to help me. Her heart is so big. She wants to go from a service dog in training to a full-fledged, fully trained service dog. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to help us make that happen.