I am super excited for this short blog series I am starting today on my new service dog Sebastian. I have had him for almost a month now and want to answer all your questions.
The Back story
If you have read my previous blogs, you know I was diagnosed with chronic Vasovagal Syncope. In April, I began experiencing fainting spells at least once a week, whether I was in public, in the car, or in the shower. I made adjustments like increasing my salt and water, getting a shower chair, not really going outside, etc. however, nothing seemed to help. My doctor said I will probably live with this forever and we can try some medications, but there isn't really one for vasovagal and it would just be us hoping for the best. I got that for sure diagnosis around mid-June.
At this time, I had been looking into service dogs for other illnesses I have, but never really could justify the cost of a service dog for any of them, until now. My mom agreed that in the next few months, I could apply to a service dog program in Orlando that I had found and get on the waitlist to be possibly matched with a puppy. This waitlist cost $500 alone, plus the 20,000 it would take to actually get the puppy.
I then found ways to cut the cost, for example, owner training or virtual training with trainers. This seemed a lot more feasible, but I was faced with a dilemma... How do I find a dog that has the right personality and temperament to be a service dog? Ultimately I would love to rescue a dog, as I have seen so many posts about local shelters being full and people needing to rehome their pets, but I wasn't sure I would be able to do it.
Three days before my birthday, I posted in a local pet rehoming Facebook Group and said, " looking for a potential service dog and would love to rescue it! Most likely looking for a german shepherd, golden retriever, or labrador." I picked these breeds because most of my research said these would be the best for what I needed.
On June 20th, I was planning to stay up until midnight because my birthday is June 21st. After receiving so many messages about chihuahuas or dogs with bad behavior, I was going to delete my post and just wait until I could apply for the puppy waitlist, but decided I would hold out for my birthday and delete it on the 22nd. Then, I kid you not, at midnight on June 21, 2022 I got a comment on that post saying, "I might have the perfect match, messaging you now."
Could this be it? Other people had said they had the perfect match as well, but it didn't work out. Then she sent me Sebastian's story:
He was a rescue. His original owner accidentally bred two show dogs and neglected Sebastian. When she got him, he was underfed and defeated. She worked with him to train him in order to help find him a home, when she learned that he is very food oriented and since he came from show dogs, he had a high potential to be service dog material. She took him to the vet to get temperament tested and checked out and they agreed. She wasn't sure if she would keep him for herself, as she already has a service dog, but began training him anyways.
I was about to leave for my appointments at Mayo Clinic, but she sent me videos, pictures and so much more. We planned to meet when I got home from Mayo Clinic to see if Sebastian would like me and see if he would take commands from me on July 9, 2022.
After a long week and a half at Mayo Clinic and then other appointments in Atlanta, I was so excited to meet Sebastian and the person I had connected with, but I was so nervous. I really wanted this to work out. We met at a dog park to run out some of his energy before trying to go train at Home Depot.
He was gorgeous. Even more so than the pictures I had seen of him. She began teaching me his basic commands, telling me what all he knew. We only stayed for about 30 minutes because it got too hot for both of us to be out, but I was already in love.
We left for Home Depot, the part I dreaded and was so nervous for. I was in love. If he didn't take commands from me, walk well with me, or perform the tasks he was trained to do, I wouldn't be taking him. However, he did! He did amazing! He walked with me perfectly, would listen to me, and even performed his tasks! She let me take him and said that if things ended up not working, she would take him back and keep training him or find him a new home.
I really wanted things to work, but knowing she was there in case he ended up not listening or something after she left took some pressure off. We decided to give it two weeks before she would find another dog to help train and rehome.
I wanted to give Sebastian time to adjust, so I wasn't going to train him the first week I had him. I took him with us places with his vest and leash, but did not expect to task train him that week. After two days of having him, I felt comfortable taking him to Costco with us just to have him walk with me. On the way out, we had to stop at customer service, which is by the exit door. I wasn't comfortable standing in line yet, so I had my boyfriend handle it while Sebastian and I sat off to the side. Sebastian started licking my
hand nonstop and whining. I thought this was because he could see the door to go outside, but then he jumped up on me, something the person I got him from said he never does. I was so confused, but I thought to check my heart rate and it was at 194, I sat down and he immediately did deep pressure therapy until it lowered. At that moment, I knew this was going to work. I knew he was my partner. I texted the person I got him from and she was amazed that he medical alerted.
In the next few blogs I will talk about: how life has changed since getting Sebastian, training, challenges, etc! I can't wait to tell you more!