I haven't been well for the last 2.5 years or so, and have no real expectation of improving much more from where I am now, and instead quite possibly could get worse. I have an autoimmune condition, for a while it wasn't absolutely sure of diagnosis but of late it has become a sure diagnosis, with no cure unless there is a lot more gene research done! I used to spend quite a bit of time in hospital but now it is only about 6 weeks per year. On top of this I get nasty migraines, currently about 3-4 per month. So that's just to give a short medical background.
About 18 months ago I started getting interested in the idea of an assistance dog, and did a bit of research, but for various reasons, such as being in a no pet rental house, not being sure where the illness was going, not wanting to take dogs away from those who were full time in wheelchairs etc, I didn't pursue it. It wasn't until the last several months I have got a lot more interested in the idea. Even then, I didn't think it was all that possible because of that first reason - I live in housing that specifies 'no pets'.
Several weeks ago I happened to ring up the local government here for information on assistance dogs in the ACT, who put me onto the Human Rights Commission because I wanted to ask them a couple of questions anyway about my legal rights if the landlords said no when I finally did ask for permission for an assistance dog. I had already checked out our Disability Discrimination Act in reference to assistance dogs, so imagine my surprise when I was told by a lovely woman from the Commission that another section of the Act that dealt with Accommodation basically meant that not allowing me to have a dog would imply they were denying me access to something that would alleviate my disability and would amount to discrimination. As soon as they told me that, I knew I had a case and since then I have been beginning to think and plan for a puppy.
Whilst there are many programs here in Australia which offer assistance dogs, there are several reasons that make me not want to go with them:
- I am not disabled to the extent of many others, such as in a wheelchair 100% of the time, (although I do have a wheelchair I use occasionally) and I don't want to take a dog off someone who is in a situation like that.
- I know the waiting periods can be long, especially if you are not a 'priority case'.
- I have experience in training dogs and would enjoy the process of the advanced training required.
- If my condition deteriorates I would easily be able to train new tasks without having to ship a dog back to the training program for re-training
- I want to get the extra close bond you get after going through puppyhood together, as I believe that would help us in a working relationship
I have been doing a lot of reading, have joined a few forums... just getting as much information as possible so I make good decisions from now on.
I have started writing a letter and putting together an information pack for my property manager and landlords, so that they make a reasonable decision about letting me have an assistance dog. I mean really they have to let me, if they don't I can officially complain, which I don't want to have to do, but I would push it a bit if it meant I would get a dog to help me out. I want my life to go back to as normal as possible and I see so much possibility there for a dog to help it go in that direction. Just to get back to work, to get some self esteem back, to know I am a functioning person again!
I am going overseas in a little less than two months to get married to my lovely fiance, but after the wedding, and if I have permission from the property owners, I shall be going full steam ahead, mostly likely with a golden retriever pup.
Wish me luck on this journey, which I shall hopefully journal the ups and downs right here.