In January 2016, my mom and I were talking on FaceTime one Saturday and she mentioned that she heard about an organization called Dogs for the Deaf in southern Oregon that trained dogs for the deaf. She thought that this is something that would be worth looking into, especially with my impending graduation in May 2017. I have always lived with wonderful roommates who have looked out for me, but knowing that I would be graduating and getting a job, there was a possibility that I would be living on my own (ended up not happening, but at the time we didn’t know), which becomes a safety issue. There has always been a little voice in the back of our heads of what would happen if I was home alone and the fire alarm went off at night. I do very well during the day, but when I am home alone I struggle with independence.
After doing some research on hearing dogs, I felt that this is something that I could potentially benefit from. I have always been a dog person and have always grown up with animals. After researching Dogs for the Deaf in the Oregon, I felt that they weren’t the perfect fit because they train rescues. Although I am a big believer in adopting rescues, it also made me nervous not knowing their past. It is my worst fear that a service dog would do something in public that is opposite of their personality.
I did a little more research and found Support Dogs in St. Louis. I started the application process in March and was approved in June. They told me the waitlist would be about a year. I got busy during my second year of grad school and forgot about it. In February 2017, I got an e-mail from them that they had a dog that they think would be a perfect fit and that she would be ready to go at the end of March. However, this organization requires a 2-week training. At this point I was in the middle of student teaching and classes and I knew that it would be very unprofessional to miss two weeks of school. I declined the offer and said that I could do it in the summer if they had a match then. Good thing I did because my health started going downhill at the beginning of March.
Two months later in mid-May they e-mailed me again and said that they had another team training in the beginning of June. It was perfect timing as I didn’t have anything those two weeks and it meant that I could stay in St. Louis a little longer. When I started telling family and friends, everyone was really excited for me and supported my decision to stay for this opportunity.
The training has been intense, but I have learned so much about dogs in general and specifically Taylor. Service dogs are always in training and they have given me the skills to continue working with her at home and to use her to her fullest potential. There were moments that I was unsure, but the bond we have is unbreakable and I know that she will bring great benefit physically and emotionally especially on those rough days.
During the training I learned about Taylor’s story and it has just felt meant to be. Taylor was born on Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be my birthday month. Her litter was the Country Music litter and country happens to be my favorite kind of music. She was named after country singer Taylor Swift, which was one of my favorite singers back in the day (I don’t like her as much now because she has strayed away from country).
Taylor came from an amazing organization in St. Louis called Support Dogs Inc. They train many different kinds of dogs for people with disabilities. When I was in the two week training, there was also a lady receiving a dog for balance as well as a family receiving a dog to help their cognitively/physically delayed son.
Support Dogs also does obedience classes as well. They have a program called TOUCH which gives courtroom dogs. These dogs are trained to be therapy for a child who may have to go on the stand to report about abuse or something of that nature. The child is able to pet the dog while sitting on the stand. They also do a Paws for Reading program where owners can bring their own dogs to pass a temperament test. If they pass, the dogs become certified to go to library and schools to read with kids.
If you would like to learn more about Support Dogs Inc or make a donation, you can go to supportdogs.org
Here is a little video that I talking about the Story of Taylor.