If you've been following along the past few months you know the day we welcomed our furry baby into our lives it was an anxious, yet joy filled day. We (especially me) were so excited to bring this bundle of unconditional Love into our lives. He was seen as our new family member, but he was coming to do a job and we had to remember that. Phineas was going to be trained to be my psychiatric service dog right from the beginning, since NOT ONE organization near me would offer a psychiatric service dog to a civilian, and every trainer I talked to said a the dog would have to have certain traits to actually be an effective service dog to pass certain tests, and often shelter dogs came with too much baggage to pass those tests. So I had taken a year to do my research to find exactly what services I needed from my dog and to find the best breed for my needs.
I knew a psychiatric service dog was exactly what I needed (and a cavalier king charles in particular) to help me with the effects of the traumatic brain injury and severe PTSD that I live with each and every day. Which is a long list of symptoms that includes neurofatigue, hypervigilance and sensory overstimulation. So although I may look like everyone else on the outside, I live with an Invisible Disability and this bundle of fur was going to be my savior.
I Had Everything Set Up For Success...and Then...
Before he was ever brought home, I thought I secured a trainer who specialized in my dogs breed and would come 5 days a week for an hour a day to train the dog and prepare him for his job. This way I wouldn’t have to over extend myself and get so overwhelmed with a puppy. We had talked on the phone for a long time and everything he laid out was exactly what I needed for success with our fur baby. The day after we brought my baby home the trainer was set to arrive and train all of us for life with a dog. But the trainer never came. In fact two hours before he was to arrive he texted me and said he couldn’t make it. In fact he wouldn’t be able to make it for many weeks. I "should find another trainer". I was crushed. Now we have a puppy and we have no idea what to do.
We’ve never lived with a puppy before and we already have two cats who had gotten used to having the run of the house. My days were already filled with head pain, vertigo and sensory overload. Now we have a bundle of love and chaos that we no longer have any help with or any experience in creating a happy family. So what did I do? Of course, I went to YouTube to find puppy training videos. I looked for books, it read blogs, I called trainers and behaviorists in the area all in the name of finding help now. I spoke to friends. I pushed myself far beyond my limits every day to find a solution while I was going way beyond my sense of safety boundaries to give him what he needed every day. For someone who lives with migraines, neurofatigue, seizures, hypervigilence and insomnia, as well as a list of other symptoms as well, this was overwhelming beyond imagination.
Not All That Glitters is Gold
After two months I finally found a trainer. But after our first session with his military style of training, I ended up on the floor having a seizure. Simply because my nervous system and brain were more over stimulated and overloaded than I could handle. He told me this is what it takes to train a service dog and I needed to be up for the task if I was going to do it myself. I couldn’t take any more input, we all had some serious thinking to do. I spoke to my doctor and my therapist, who told me what they thought would be best. I then contacted friends and family to see if someone could foster our fur baby and train him until he would be the right age, where he would no longer overload or overwhelm me. I even interviewed a few people to come to the house and train him or do a board and train program. That option was extremely costly, and it wasn’t an option since on top of all of this, we had to sell our new home and buy another in a better location, because where we bought our home made my symptoms worse. And I am home schooling my daughter due to COVID. I have a lot on my plate and it was quickly spilling over and leaving me short circuiting.
Searching for a Solution
I want what is best for my boy as well as what is best for me. And I don't think I am what he needs. He needs a family with kids and dogs and lots of outside time and lots of play. I can not provide what he needs, and right now he is not at an age where he can give me what I need either. So I searched for a solution. While scrolling through the internet I came across Cavalier Rescue of Florida. This organization is amazing. They are filled with so much love, compassion and knowledge of the breed. The people who volunteer are amazing and the staff is so on the ball and kind it’s hard not to love them. I contacted them and shared my story. Went over all the details as if I was talking to my therapist. We had a long conversation, filled with lots of tears on my end.
The woman I spoke with said she absolutely understood, and I could feel her compassion through the phone. She explained that yes, this breed would be excellent for my needs, but after they reach 5 years old. Before that there is so much puppy exuberance and play that, of course, I would get overloaded. One of the things I appreciate about this group, is that when they match dogs and people the process is much kike adopting a child. You apply for dog adoption, but they don't just do first come first serve. They interview you, look at your home to be sure it's the best environment for the dog and check your references and with the doctor you have lined up for the dogs care before they fully consider you. So they are sure the person is the right fit for the dog, instead of the other way around.
So, after further discussion and with a heavy heart, we agreed it would be better for both Phin and me if I let this fur baby find a more fitting and wonderful family. One that would fit his needs better. And once we are settled in our new home, I will welcome the right senior cavalier into our home and into my heart.
Devastation and Tears
This was a devastating decision and not at all one taken lightly. We are still grieving our loss, and crying daily, even though I have faith the outcome for him will be a loving family with kids to play with and space to bounce around that we couldn’t provide. It feels like I lost my furry son and my heart is heavy. My level of overload has decreased and since giving him to his foster family, I have slept more than 3 hours and have had no seizures.
This level of Self-C.A.R.E feels selfish, cruel and opens the door wide for my inner judge and jury. My mind is constantly telling me I am a quitter. Telling me I gave up and never really gave it a chance. That I’m a horrible person. That I’m a hypocrite. But my body says differently. Yes my heart weighs heavy with grief. My body as a whole tells me I made the right choice for him and for me. It feels lighter, and I can breathe, where as when he was here, my nervous system was on overdrive and I couldn’t breathe because I was excessively anxious.
We also made the decision to send one of our cats to live with my parents (it was my moms cat anyway), because for years she would wake me up at night just as I would finally fall asleep. Which proved to be a very beneficial decision for both the cat and my mom. So I will have faith in the right home for my furry boy. We have only one pet now. We are soon moving to a smaller home away from the busy roads and constant activity of where we live. There are a lot of changes happening right now and there is a lot of guilt in my head, and heavy grief in my heart.
This injury- this invisible disability- has turned my world, and my families world, upside down in ways I never would have imagined three years ago. But if anything, I am fiercely determined to move forwards and figure out what makes my life a quality life, instead of a life I am just surviving through. Friends of mine with brain injuries have gone to doctors and spent thousands of dollars they don’t have on trials to see if new theories, therapy’s and medications can help ease symptoms. And for most, they only help for a limited time, if they help at all. I did my absolute best to put all the pieces in place to be set up for success. I did my best to figure out how to raise a puppy and to train him to be a service dog for myself, by myself all while being triggered every day, all day and living with the effects of a brain injury and severe PTSD. I need to be compassionate with myself here. I need to understand that there is a reason people who truly need a psychiatric service dog don’t train their own puppy, is that it really needs to be done by someone else. Someone who is experienced and can train the puppy to be the adult service dog that that person needs, then train them both how to live together successfully. I just wish the organizations around me would have been more open to allowing a civilian to have a psychiatric service dog. All the organizations I contacted turned me away because I wasn't military.
Determination and Love
I had a plan for success lined up. I had a trainer, the best food and the most loving and secure environment for him in place. But none of that mattered in the end. Maybe my fierce determination to finally have my service dog was all too soon. Maybe I forced something to happen before (the Universe knew) it was the right time, simply because I wanted to be in control of some outcome in my life. Especially since I feel so helpless to it now. Maybe I should have endured longer and just dealt with the suffering. I don’t have the answer. Right now I am grieving and figuring out how to heal. I still need the right service dog and still know it would be great for me. So does my doctor, my therapist and my family. But now I am going to just let it happen when it’s meant to happen. I’m going to volunteer at Cavalier Rescue of Florida and continue my healing journey. I am going to keep moving forwards one moment at a time. No matter how much of weight I carry in my heart every day.
Information contained within this site does not take the place of professional medical care. It is for educational purposes only and created with the intention of offering support and empowerment to women struggling to find wholistic and natural answers to their challenges. Every individual is responsible for their own actions, choices and behavior.