Hey contributors! My name is Kimberly, hopeful director of this brand new non-profit organization called Sara's Saving Grace! The sole purpose of this group is to provide FREE trained service dogs for victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I myself suffer from this. I am not a military veteran, which made it very difficult for me to obtain a service dog that will aid me in confronting daily life outside of my home. Everything from extreme paranoia, agoraphobia, and social anxiety can be coped with through the work a dog can perform. But, being an average Jane Doe meant that there were no programs out there, at least not in my neck of the US, that would provide a dog from a program for me.
Lucky me, I am a certified dog trainer! I am fully capable of training my own working SD. But, that was just me! What about all the other PTSD victims out there who don't have the ability or know-how to train a dog to mitigate this disability?
The In's & Out's
In a nutshell, our mission is to:
- Rescue dogs from high kill shelters to serve as working dogs
- Find homes for rescued dogs not suitable for service work, either in another field of work or as pets.
- Provide FREE service dogs for victims of PTSD, civilian or veteran, no matter their financial situation.
Our dogs will primarily come from shelters that have high kill rates of their stray dogs. We will also occasionally accept donated pups from reputable, high quality breeders. This is not a cheap task! Each dog from a shelter will cost about $65 to $200 to pull from the shelter. Then, $200 to $400 just in start up basic care. Add in their vet care (including getting spayed or neutered, wormings, microchip, vaccinations, etc.,) costs of supplies such as crates and training gear (harnesses, collars, leashes, and identification vests,) high quality food, grooming, treats and toys, beds and blankets, and 1 to 2 years of training! That's a lot of money per dog! We intend for the training itself will be given to the dogs from volunteer trainers and "puppy raisers" through group classes that we conduct as well as peronsalized one-on-one training with each dog. No volunteer will be forced to pay for any care on their own, we aim to provide all care costs to volunteers through donations.
The end result of all this work and money is a highly trained and tested, sound working service dog for a handler in need. Each dog will be fully trained for public access and advanced obedience before being teamed up with a handler. Because every handler will have their own individual needs, once the team has been paired we will begin task traiing the dog to fit the person's needs. All of this at free cost to the disabled person, as we believe that a financial situation should NOT mean that you cannot have access to a tool (in this case, a service dog) that will mitigate a disability and allow normal function in our society.
The beginning goal is to place at least 4 dogs with 4 handlers every year (this means about 8 to 10 dogs in the program at any given time.) We are starting with a modest goal, as we will not short change future handlers on the training of these dogs. They must be unobtrusive in the public, and love to work for their human. Puppies start training at 8 weeks old, and may not graduate until they are 2 years old. An adult rescue may take longer, or in some cases less time! The number of volunteer trainers and puppy raisers also play a large role in the number of dogs being teamed up with their disabled handlers in a year.
If we do not reach our goal, we will be behind schedule in getting the ball rolling. We need at least $500 just to get licensed as a non-profit charity organization, before we can even start training dogs. This organization will cotinue to progress, but it may be a lot slower!
A website is currently in the works, complete with a FAQ for information about the program, the dogs, as well as information about service dog laws and rights.
The site currently has no domain name, and ads are visible from where the site is built from (wix.com.) The domain name and to make the ads go away will come about if we can hit our funding goal, so that it will be paid up to a year.
The website is a critical tool for the program. It not only describes in detail what we stand for, what we do, and our goals, but it is a tool for visitors to help contribute to the saving of dogs and aiding their handlers suffering from disabilities.
My own PTSD comes with a plethora of other mental illnesses that have impacted my life dramatically. For months I would be home bound because I had no way to communicate my needs during a panic attack or spell of disorientation due to my agoraphobia. My service dog allows me far more freedom than I ever had before. I no longer have to fear leaving home alone, because my dog is there to help me navigate the world, and pacify my disabilities.
The goal of this program is to do the same for others. Anyone with PTSD (and other mental disabilities,) that require the use of a service dog will not be shunned because they are on disability, limited income, unemployment, etc. We will not force you to fundraise to pay for your dog (though another volunteer to help raise money is always welcome!) All we want is for YOU to feel more confident, and to get your life back. Gain the independence your disability took away from you, because your four legged counterpart is there to help!
Other Ways You Can Help
Not everyone who wants to help can do so financially. You can help this cause by sharing this campaign at least once every day with your friends on social media sites. Tell them why it is important to YOU that we reach our goal.
We are also open to volunteers in the Wisconsin/Illiois area that would like to become a puppy raiser or or a volunteer professional trainer.