During our first year, we held a couple of events to raise money for service dogs and we were pumped and ready to go! We learned there was way more to it than just getting a dog and having it trained. I talked to several different trainers in different areas of the country. I was totally off thinking that we were going to see these cute little puppies going off to “boot camp” to become a service dogs. I found out that the training facilities don’t even begin training until the dog is about 18 months old! I learned that the demand is very high for these dogs and getting the dogs isn’t the problem. It is finding families that are willing to raise the pups until they are old enough to be trained. This raised some concern and I finally found a trainer that was brutally honest about the whole thing. She told me how many trainers are jumping on the band wagon because that is where the money is now with demand being so high and they are training the dogs to be basically a companion dog when in reality, their success rate is only about 43% which she said was high. I couldn’t believe it. But, she continued to explain that you are taking a pup, placing it with a family for an extended time in which bonding already takes place. Then, you remove that dog from the family it has grown to love, place it in “boot camp” where it knows no one yet adapts and then you teach it basics such as turning off a light, retrieving items, etc. and finally, the dog is placed with a veteran whom he doesn’t know and is expected to protect that person. This is hard for the dog and the veteran as there was no bond time. Many dogs have been returned because of personality conflicts and such.
At that point, we were afraid of moving forward. We discussed many alternative solutions and why not let the veteran raise the pup until time for training. This raised concern as we all know raising a pup can be very stressful with house training, chewing, vet bills, food, more chewing, and more chewing plus all the other expenses. So, we decided to ease the burden and reduce some of the expenses, Cody’s Cause would provide the veteran with a puppy starter kit. And, we’ve done just that for our first family, Michael and Arianna Shellswell! Michael has been trying to get a service dog for sometime but unable to. They were told that there was a waiting list of at least 5 years and the cost would be anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. Michael and Arianna have a friend who has been training dogs for more than 10 years. When he learned of their troubles trying to get a dog, he stepped up offering his services for a reduced cost all Michael had to do, was come up with the money and the dog. So, they started a Go Fund Me page to raise the money. A dear friend of mine, Mary Victoria Southerland, who kayaked the entire length of the Ohio River to bring awareness to PTSD, sent me the link to see if Cody’s Cause could help. We were elated to finally be able to put the money we had raised to good use!! We made a donation and shared the link and helped raise the money needed for training. Now, we needed the dog. After some research, Michael decided on a Cane Corso…a very large dog, intimidating to look at yet lovable and playful at the same time. Michael and Arianna also have an English bulldog, George and they will be welcoming LiLou to their family to be Michael’s service dog. Cody’s Cause also put together a kit to help them get started and to ease the burden of expenses. The kit included a crate, a dog bed, feeding bowls, puppy training pads, chew toys, treats, 37 lb bag of food, more chew treats, more chew toys, a personalized collar with matching leash (all will be orange which was Cody’s favorite color and all will be personalized “Cody’s Cause”) and we also included 2 different boxes of flea and tick repellent to use as the pup grows.
Today, Michael, Arianna, George and LiLou are on their way home and just called to tell me that they will be stopping by to meet us! So, I am so excited! Can’t wait!