Costs of Raising a Service Dog

It’s taken alot to admit that I’m struggling, and it’s been even harder to reach out for help. But here it is.

I’m struggling alot lately, and part of that is from my loss of independence. Also my eyes. Everything is in GIANT text so it’s clear enough to read it. This is a huge blow, since so much of my day consists of reading, both online and off.

I’ve put a callout for fundraising for a service dog so I can get some of that back freedom back, and find some normalcy in life again. There are some who don’t understand why I’m doing what I am and why we need to raise funds. So hence this post, to try to clear a few things up.

We’re focusing on fundraising efforts to help me find some independence again. We’re getting a puppy to train as a certified service dog! We will be a team more than he will be a pet. The dog will be trained to help stabilize my balance, to increase blood flow to my upper body, retrieve water, pick items off the floor, alert to flare ups and other tasks appropriate to my needs. In public, he will be trained to go get help if needed, safely cross the street, stability and more.

I have lost so much of my independence from this unknown illness that continues to cause issues – debilitating dizziness, tinnitus, blurred and double vision, cognitive malfunction, facial flushing, presyncope, instability, improper digestion, and more. Having that team member with me will help me get some of that independence back again. A fully trained service dog can cost upwards of $20,000. This is an intimidating out-of-pocket expense on a single income. The breeder we have decided to purchase a german shepherd puppy from is set to pair her breeding adults in the spring. We have taken many costly steps to reduce my flare ups,  so we’re looking for a bit of relief from the costs that have already accrued so we can move forward with this goal.

Even though we have a good health coverage plan, there has still been an accumulation of expenses that have impacted our way of life. This has been covered ok, but they are starting to add up.

Hotel rooms for my husband during my hospital visits, medications (both prescription and over-the-counter, several of which are NOT covered by our plan or Alberta Health Care), compression stockings to help increase blood pressure, moisture-wicking clothing for night sweats, thermal clothing for daytime cold flares, hot packs to help raise body temperature and improve digestion, tests that are not covered by plans or health care, supplements. We also recently replaced our windows to help regulate the temperature in the house, since temperature fluctuations cause flare ups, and the furnace will be replaced soon as well. The fuel to get to appointments and treatments. The hot water tank was an unexpected, unrelated expense as well. It’s been an expensive year. And we’re not finished yet.

Not to mention having to close my business, which took away from the income I brought in. I was making mistakes that shouldn’t have been made, and I’m not willing to risk the health of my clients. This was the right thing do, although a hard decision to make.

So now looking at a service dog, we’re looking at even more expenses, which I’ll outline below to give you a general idea of what we’re looking at.

  • Puppy: $1575
  • Neuter: $375
  • Food per year: $950
  • Check up, vaccines, de-worm: $240
  • Microchip: $55
  • Crate: $0 (already owned)
  • Grooming equipment: $0 (already owned)
  • Necessities (leash, collar, food bowl, etc): $150
  • Miscellaneous (toys/treats etc): $100
  • Puppy basics training: $150
  • Manners and basic obedience: $210
  • Online-provided courses: $180
  • Private coaching: $260

We are looking at $4245 minimum for the first year, and extensive training will take place in subsequent years which will cost even more.

To pay for a fully trained dog would be more than double this cost, but Alberta regulations have changed so that individuals can now train their own service dog. There are standards that must be met in order to achieve certification, but self training allows people to bond with their partner immediately, and develop a strong working relationship together. This also means that the animal can be trained according to individual needs, and this is the method we have chosen to pursue. It will be a full time endeavour, and one that will be entirely worth every moment and penny spent.

I have handmade items for sale, proceeds of which will go entirely to the cost of raising and training the puppy. Links are provided below.

You’ll find my malas and other crafts on Conscious Crafties by clicking here.

You’ll find additional items that cannot be posted on Conscious Crafties on my Facebook page.

If you want to help, but aren’t interested in purchasing anything, we’re taking donations – with giant armfuls of gratitude. While we will be focusing on self training,  there will also be puppy classes and one on one coaching as the puppy develops and we establish our working relationship.

Any funding in excess of what we need for the puppy will be donated to Hope Heels, a charitable organization that provides service dogs in Alberta.

I can’t seem to get the Paypal donation button to work in wordpress, but donations can be made via Paypal on my website by clicking here. Scroll down, where you’ll see the “Donate” button.




THANK YOU, so much!

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Labs, tests, results, and hope

Just like the title says, more things all happened. More blood was taken. More strange looks at my spacey gaze and glazed eyes. Questions about why I was having certain tests done at such a young age. Comments on how good I look so I must feel at least ok. And then more normal lab results.

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is a medieval torture method used on those individuals who are bewitched and have no outward signs of illness, in order to exorcise the devil out of them. The cuff inflates so much it cuts off all circulation to the hand and turns the hand a sickly blackish purple color, making the veins bulge like a stressed out neurotic chihuahua’s eyes on a hot day without water. And just when you think your arm is about to fall off from lack of blood, oxygen or general feeling, the cuff releases, sending a surge of blood flowing so strongly that your tingly fingers burn with renewed circulation. It’s like bringing a dying person filled with 23 bullets back to  consciousness – they go from sweet, blissful nothingness to searing pain and agony. This is what the arm is thinking, and it’s cursing you with everything it can. This series of events occurs every 15 minutes for nearly 24 hours, so if you had hoped to sleep that night, the joke’s on you. Even the strongest pot won’t keep you knocked out. (Trust me. I tried.) And then, on little to no sleep, you have to make your way back to the facility that’s an hour away in order to return said torture device so they can tell you that there’s no sign of hypertension.

But you already knew that, because you weren’t being sent for hypertension, but for hypotension, which won’t show up because the activity of the day and the stress from the cuff and lack of sleep increased your stress and blood pressure enough that it landed in the perfectly healthy range and is not at all representative of a normal, uneventful day at home where your blood pressure has dipped to the mid 70’s.

But, thankfully, there was a hint of excess night-time blood pressure dipping, which IS normal for me. Not that it’s normal – but that’s what mine does. It seems minor, but perhaps there’s a hint there.

Otherwise, blood work and echo and ECG all came back normal, just like everything else.

Interesting enough, though, I received my report from BestDoctors.

What’s that, you ask? That’s a good question. I wondered that, too. I couldn’t find much out about them, but I noticed it was something provided by my husband’s benefits plan, so I had decided to check it out. When things started happening in April and after my head CT, I had messaged them just to get more info. Before I knew it, I was going through all of my medical history and issues, which were many and complicated, and the voice on the other end began to turn surly and continuously asked if these symptoms were all related.

Well, of course they are. They’re all happening in my body, and all the systems in the body are connected. There’s very little you can remove or have break down and have absolutely no consequences for that which requires compromises or treatment to accommodate the missing pieces. Try running an engine without the spark plugs, or filter, or anything else. All the pieces are there for a reason, and without one part, something else will breakdown eventually.

I remember he asked me to just focus on one system, so we focused on digestive issues. When I mentioned that I have endometriosis, he responded that that’s not a GI issue. I had to explain to him that endometriosis could grow on different organs, or even just inflame and affect different organs, so I didn’t understand why I would leave it out. He said it was impossible for that to happen because endometriosis was the inside of the uterus that shed each month.

No, dear. That’s the endometrium. There’s a difference. Is there someone else I can talk to?

No?

Pity.

There were red flags right from the start, from difficulty with messages, with misunderstanding what I said, writing different terms down than what I offered which did not apply to my case…. I wasn’t so sure about these guys. But figured it’s provided with the benefits package, it’s free, what harm could there be?

After months of waiting, and not being able to get through to the rep that was dealing with my case, I finally called the main number to inquire into the status of my report. It took another week, but after 5 months of waiting, I finally got it.

And wasn’t impressed.

It seems they decided to agree with the neurologist who read my CT and told me that I was depressed with symptomatic disorder, with a potential for an autonomic disorder, but with high doubts.

Nope. So much nope. My first knee-jerk involved unkindly comments directed towards the physicians who offered the diagnosis, followed by instant self doubt and questions directed at myself. This was the second diagnosis like this – what if they’re right?

And then I remembered how many physicians told me that my knee was fine, or that there was nothing else wrong with me except that I was obese, or the gyne that sent me away with “normal” menstruation pain that was excruciating, and I’ve been living with for so long because I thought that’s what women everywhere were doing.

Gaslighting happens so often in doctor’s offices, and if you look into your regions health care associations you’ll be able to find a physician’s code of ethics they are sworn to uphold. In there is usually a statement regarding patient care and putting bias aside in order to provide the patient with the care needed, and that the patient is to treated according to the symptoms they describe and not what the physician believes.

There are many, many physicians who do not provide care according to the code of ethics they have sworn to, and I strongly feel that the ones providing the service at BestDoctors are some of the same caliber.

I didn’t really know how BestDoctors worked, but after chatting with some people about my results who also have this service, they had very similar results from this company, as well. They were given an easily dismissed diagnosis with no treatment, except perhaps psychiatry, and left the patient to decide who to believe and what path to follow. One lady ended up going into heart failure the following week after she received her BestDoctors report, another suffered anaphylaxis despite her report stating she was not having allergic reactions, and another yet was diagnosed the same as I was when she ended up being diagnosed by her personal team with MS, POTS and a number of other illnesses with comorbidities.

How did this happen? How is their judgement so way out to lunch?

One of the biggest red flags could be a part of it – right at the beginning, when they only wanted to focus on one system. This is a mistake in so many ways, because when one system is struggling the others are working harder to accommodate for that failing system. They’re all affected. So how can you know where the base of the problem is if you only look at one body system?

Another red flag is that this service is paid for by the insurance companies.

What do insurance companies hate the most? They hate actually paying out claims, and want to keep as much for themselves as they can. That’s what the insurance business is all about, so it’s to be expected.

By minimizing a patient’s symptoms, they minimize what a patient needs, including medications and equipment for their treatments. In this way, the insurance company can also minimize payouts to those patients. They patients feel they have been heard, and the insurance company has less to pay out for.

It’s an insurance scam, in my opinion, and I totally fell right into their hands. I felt really dumb for it after, too. But – one bonus is that I can see most of the recent lab and test results myself, which I’ve been able to track down some clues that I’m not sure my physicians have picked up. Not that I blame them for that! They are tiny, tiny clues, but ones that I can acknowledge because it’s what I’m living. Yes, a high RBC count COULD indicate that I’m dehydrated… but what if I’m drinking 3-4 litres of water, plus electrolytes and other fluids, and have a low urea result? Low urea could be a sign of overhydration, among other things.

But, what if I’m NOT dehydrated? Perhaps that’s a sign of something? Like mast cell production? Which ties in with endometriosis, as well? What if that’s the connection that’s being missed because it’s such a small discrepancy that it doesn’t seem worth exploring?

I like puzzles and clues, and this was the reason I went into health care to begin with. I love researching and digging into the physiology of body systems and connectivity. The body is really super neat, and science has come a long way to keep people living longer – but I think every so often people forget to look outside of the textbook and to connect the dots that may waver a little bit from the norm.

The actual, real, face to face care team I have has been working hard to help, and we seem to be narrowing things down. Currently, there’s a “soft” diagnosis of POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – essentially, the heart rate increases excessively on standing and can cause a multitude of issues).

I joined a POTS group to learn more about it, and everything fit well. There was a question burning in me, because it’s weird and I’ve never really been able to describe it. So I asked:

“Does anyone get dizzy by just looking up?

Or just looking around a white room, like a doctor’s office?”

Most people I’ve told about this have looked at me like I have two heads, so I kept it simple and wanted to see what people said.

My entire chaos had suddenly been met with validation, and I cannot portray how much relief I felt in seeing the responses, some of which were able to describe exactly how I feel. “Dizzy” is a term I use loosely for this, because it’s hard to put some sensations in to words. But some members found them!

  • The horrid lighting at target and Walmart makes me pass out now. Which is a real shame considering my love for Target 😭
  • Yes. Either dizzy or a real detached type feeling
  • Detached! Omg I get the worst looks when I describe this. I’ve said it’s like I’m not in my body and looking at a computer screen.
  • Sometimes. I hate it. Especially if they have the fluorescence lights
  • YES things move in like slow motion and it feels like it’s not real its hard to explain
  • Yeah!! I used to think I was schizophrenic maybe but after joining this group I feel more reassured lmao
  • Yes. Lighting in stores makes me go fast for the exit often. My doctors know to turn off the lights for me. Everything goes white and then dissociation kicks in and then panic. Was diagnosed with POTS but am going to an endocrinologist and neurologist bc my pupils stay small and pulse, yet my eyes are healthy. Trying to solve this mystery for years, I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and this set of symptoms has held me back the most.
  • Yes, it almost makes me feel like I’m going to pass out.
  • YES I get dizzy if I change eye positions quickly like if I turn around fast or if I look from one side of the room to another I get really dizzy. I also can’t look at anything all white because the image starts to warp and I see lights and stuff it’s really hard to explain
  • Yes- this sounds like it! It’s not so bad in the house, but mostly in bright/flourescent light and/or all white rooms. And it’s kind of like there’s a thick black veil over your eyes and everything seems darker, or muted? Like you’ve turned the brightness level down on your phone screen, but with your eyes…. It’s so freaking hard to describe. Lol

There are so, so many people who have the same struggle to describe how they feel, and it’s hard to understand what they mean unless you’ve personally experienced those sensations. This makes it (understandably) so hard for physicians to pinpoint causes and to think that patients might be making things up, but what some of them fail to realize is that there are sometimes no good descriptions for what a person is feeling.

I personally look up my symptoms no matter what it is. I don’t tend to visit my care providers unless necessary, because sometimes it’s easy to find out if something is serious or not. I don’t go in for head colds or flus or coughs or anything else – I do what I can to suffer my immune system to do it’s damned job on its own. And it typically works out just fine. I’d never seen another doctor regarding my sun allergy after it was dismissed as contact dermatitis. I’d never gone back for pain in my abdomen after my gyne rolled his eyes at me. I’d never complained about the pain in my hips, because it’s always been a family trait that no one took seriously, so I didn’t either. When these symptoms started appearing, I started trying to find answers and solutions to feel better, and the more symptoms came up, the more I searched. Of course I’m focused on them.

They suck.

The average amount of time to diagnose POTS and similar hidden, chronic illnesses is 5-6 years. Nope. I’m not waiting that long like this. It’s easy for others to say “Oh, just focus on something else” – but unless you’ve been in these shoes, it’s hard to truly understand and appreciate wanting to get better. And sometimes, doctors don’t work fast enough because they truly have no way to know the extent of what a person is living with. I’ve been told that it could potentially take 8 months for surgery for my cyst to be removed, which is growing, painful, and is likely causing the majority of these symptoms to begin with. It’s been five months already, and I’m not really keen on the idea of waiting twice that long to resolve these issues. I don’t understand how these kinds of things aren’t triaged with decent timing.

When real issues aren’t addressed as real issues, they don’t just magically disappear. More and people – especially women – are faced with a similar hesitations to address their medical issues due to being disregarded and not wanting to waste time to be sent away without any answers, like they have been so many times before. Those issues keep building, and the stress with it. This is when self deprecation, depression and anxiety begins to build up as well, because people no longer know what’s normal and what’s not – they aren’t taken seriously, so they stop taking themselves seriously, too. They stop advocating for their own health because they are led to believe that they don’t know any better.

People – it’s your body. YOU know what you’re feeling. YOU know when you don’t feel right. And after falling victim to gaslighting in medical offices for so long, I’m done with that. I’m also done with feeling miserable, and am really looking forward to the day that I can do more without suffering so badly from it. It’s on the way. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on keeping on!

Namaste!