(The following is a brief blog written by an SDWR family with an Autism Service Dog as a reflection on the fundraising process.)
I’ve probably said before that my Facebook newsfeed is full of autism sites. I follow bloggers and personalities who speak and write about autism. One, in particular, is currently trying to save an organization that provides autism service dogs. This organization in particular trains seeing-eye dogs for the blind. Those dogs who don’t fit the temperament to be a guide dog are trained to be autism service dogs. Wonderful program in my opinion. The families in need of autism service dogs are put on a waiting list and in due time are given a service animal for free. Free. It is my understanding from my recent readings that this includes the training, veterinary bills, etc.
The reason there is a movement to save this organization is that it is no longer feasible for that organization to provide these dogs for free. They will now try to place the same dogs in schools as therapy dogs. Knowing first hand of what an autism service dog can do for a child and family, I really hate that this isn’t available any longer. Although the dogs will be great assets to schools and teachers, they aren’t access granted service dogs helping individuals. The other options for families needing this type of service dog require fundraising. A lot of fundraising.
We signed a contract and agreed to raise donations in order to receive Jake, our son’s autism service dog. There is no just paying for the dog, no taking out a loan for the dog. The organization does not want anyone to go into debt in order to make the dog happen. The fundraising experience is amazing actually. Our little town reached out and took in a lot of autism awareness facts that are little known to most people. They felt a part of it. They heard our story and saw our passion.
So, it can feel like a lot of money. We did it in 4 months. I have to give credit to my husband Chris and my BFF Megan. They sent letters and shared links and organized a golf tournament. Our neighbors sent emails and people donated. People are truly good and want to help. But, it sure is hard to ask. We didn’t want charity. We wanted awareness. We needed this dog for our son.
With that being said, we never balked at the amount of money that they asked us to raise. I own my dental practice. I know it takes a lot of money to just keep the doors open. And to pay 6 people and myself. And to pay overhead expenses. You get my drift. I have a giving heart. I want to do things for free all the time. But I can’t. It’s not feasible. The world doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. So when you think about the time and effort and money the service dog organization puts into the breeding, raising, training, and delivering of these dogs, the donation they ask us to raise is a drop in the bucket. They have amazingly good and dedicated employees, crazy travel expenses, vet bills, etc. They train dogs for diabetic alerting, autism, seizure response and PTSD. It’s not just one guy getting all the donations and calling it a day. It takes money to power an organization like this. I would never expect to get a dog like Jake for free. And believe me, you have to be dead serious about wanting to integrate a service dog into your life. It’s not for the meek. I’ve reached out to many families who are possibly interested, and only a few sign-up. Raising those funds proves dedication to the cause. This organization cares. I feel like they are family. This organization is changing lives. It sure changed ours. This organization is Service Dogs by SDWR.