Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Think I Can, I Think I Might...

I think I may turn in one of the service dog applications this week. Might. Sigh. Admitting a state of permanence is difficult--it really is.

But when I think about all the tasks I could achieve more independently, without guilt from having to seek out someone else just to pick up something or retrieve something I can't but really need, I feel encouraged. I'm sorry to be waffly about this. I'm talking with family about it again too. At times I feel excited, at times scared. I saw a list of physical tasks that service dogs can accomplish and I was able to mentally check off most of the items. I could get out on my own more. Employment is far more feasible.

But most of the decision is a temporal one. Will this last forever? It seems like saying I won't get better and do better; it seems like committing myself to a state of stasis or decline. Yet I could physically do more than I can now with a service dog's help. They can drag laundry baskets to the laundry room and help with removing clothes from the dryer. That would allow me to do more physically, not less. I could then put the laundry in and fold it. Retrieving is a big one. It really is. I could get help getting my own swim bag in and out of the car. Right now I can't. Then I could swim.

Waffle, waffle. I keep considering this idea and it makes sense, but every time I look at it full-on and try to make the commitment I'm like the runaway bride in the Julia Roberts film who gets panicky and runs out the door. I've talked to a number of organizations but have not yet submitted the paperwork.

We've talked about it. I feel like I'm giving in, but it's not quite comparable to other changes we've made. The walking thing? Not the same. Two autumns ago it was clear I couldn't walk well and I mostly had to stay home. By January a scooter or manual wheelchair pushed by someone else was an immediate necessity. (Observation: everyone's calling it a wheelchair now, doctors, nurses, friends and acquaintances--maybe because it's so permanently attached to me?) There was no "giving in," I simply couldn't. Could not. The dog is just not a necessity in the same way but would make a lot much easier. A dog seems to be a bigger commitment. If I didn't need wheels tomorrow, great, so what? I'd be happy to leave them behind (though I'm also happy with them, there's no reason not to be). A service dog is a huge investment of others' time and money and resources, as well as my own, and yes while he or she would still be a welcome member of our family and still be of benefit to me, I feel hesitant since what if I get better?

Here's a list of tasks service dogs do. Scroll to service dogs, not guide dogs:
A lot of the retrieval tasks I need help with, some of the tug tasks, some of the carry tasks, the bracing, plus retrieving my husband, who can't always hear me. Being able to get someone in an emergency is good. Did I mention some guarding against bullying? People like dogs, even if they don't like people with disabilities.

Thinking about this more. The dog means independence to me, being able to do more and not doing without something I need so as not to interrupt others. Or not being able to do something at all out on my own. At the same time, it seems to represent a loss of hope in improvement of my health. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does. I'm still concerned about where all these new health problems will lead, and I mean illness, not just disability. That's what scares me. Maybe it's not so much the fear that I'll get better and have a dog I might not need--I think it's the fear that that I'll get worse, and the dog means that. I guess I just don't have a way of knowing what the future holds or I'd make my decisions from that.

I've long wanted a nickname for the scooter, wheelchair, whatever it is that's attached to my body. Finally came up with it while commenting on Elizabeth's blog. Grace. Graced to have it, graced to have this life where we have so many blessings, graced with a great family and friends, graceful movement in it, a sense of irony/comedy when there's not. Then we don't have to worry about what to call it.


Lene Andersen said...

Could it not be argued that increased independence is a necessity? That just as the scooter is a tool that's given you greater independence, mobility and energy, so will a service dog. And if you improve, it would likely be a gradual improvement, during which a dog would still be a help.

What happens to service dogs if they're no longer needed - do you have to give them back? That would be awful.

FridaWrites said...

Yes, you are right, and I think a dog would help me be more active and do more.

The service dog organizations have strongly encouraged me to apply, meaning I'm being more self-judgmental than they are.

I don't know of any that require a dog be given back, even after an owner's death--if I improved that much, I'd discuss it with them in case someone else could benefit more. There is a certain base level of disability I'll have/ do have regardless and could use some help, though I wouldn't normally apply for an assistance dog at that point.

yanub said...

Frida, getting a dog would be super, if you think you are up to it. I've seen how good a service dog can be in bracing and helping with tasks. At the same time, to me, there's the drawback that it is a dog, with it's own needs and personality. Dogs can be very tiring, just like people. The important thing is that it fit your personality and life. If it does that, and can also bring service skills to bear, and you can give purpose and a sense of belonging, then both you and the dog are winners. I am guessing that you are liking the idea of a dog in your life to start with, or you wouldn't be considering this, so go for it!

FridaWrites said...

The fact that the 2 week training itself would be very physically difficult (though I could, with accommodations) is probably a strong sign one could help me a lot.

I think I'm up to the energy and attention required. The extra company would be welcome on long and difficult days.

Lisa Moon said...

I think Grace is a beautiful choice. :)

And I read through the lists of what the service dogs can do and I was really amazed! I mean, I knew a lot of the things they were capable of, but there were many on there which really surprised me - happily so!

I think Yanub makes a good point about when you're feeling it's the right time for this; it would involve a lot, but the benefits sound so great...

It sounds like you're coming to that decision.