I answer many calls a day at my job. I schedule appointments, give information pertaining to PCSing pets overseas and answer questions and give advice within my means. I’ve gotten quite comfortable on the phone when helping people. If someone calls with a concern about their dog’s smelly ears, for example they will call to see if they should bring the dog in to be looked at by the doctor. I usually reply with “If it concerns you, then it is justifiable bringing him/her in to be looked at. If anything for peace of mind”. If they do bring them in and have them looked at, even if it wasn’t a dire emergency like they had originally thought… well they got their peace of mind. Upon check out I will tell the owner “I am happy we were able to see (pet’s name) today” 99 percent of the owners will agree with me and thank me for my concern. The other option is one I loathe… when nobody will agree to see their pet and they have to resort to consulting Dr “Google”. They mean well and are genuinely trying to help their pet but it has a way of backfiring at times. For instance… A lady who thinks her dog has ear mites because he’s scratching his ears. She googles it and goes to Walmart to pick up ear med medication. Turns out it’s a yeast infection and that ear mite medication just made it 100% worse. Not only does the owner feel like shit for unknowingly doing this to their pet, but treatment can be more expensive depending on how bad the infection becomes (not to mention agony for the dog) I get all kinds of calls which I’ve grown comfortable in fielding… but today I got a different call and it’s still affecting me now hours later.
I answer the phone in my usual “Thank you for calling **************** this is Stacey, how may I help you?” and a man’s deep gruff voice is on the other end. “Yes, Hello ma’am. I have a few strange questions I was hoping you could help me with”
“Ok” I respond. Quietly wondering if these questions will indeed be strange. I’ve been asked questions about what to do with an orphan mouse and whether or not to keep an armadillo as a pet and if it would wear a collar. (no, really… true story!)
The man takes a deep breath and begins his story “Well, first question is do you do service dog training there?”
“No sir, I’m sorry but we don’t. I know of dog trainers in the area but I am not quite sure what qualifications one would need in order to train a dog as a service dog”
* silence for a few seconds* then he continued “Ok, well here is my next question. I see you have an animal shelter on post. Do you by chance have any puppies that will grow up to be a BIG dog? You see ma’am, I am a 100% disabled veteran. I have bad knees and a curved spine and I fall a lot. I was hoping to find a dog that is young enough to train to help me when I fall, you know… help me get up and assist me in getting around my house. I am a big guy so I would love a companion like that to help me.”
My heart melted… This poor man was looking for a friend to take care of him and help him perform regular daily functions. Why not a dog? I mean, dogs are trained to help disabled veterans all the time. In fact, right here on post there is a Golden Retriever that accompanies his owner to work every day that can tell if his blood sugar is getting too low. They are so in tune with one another you’d think they could telepathically communicate. I think companion animals that act as service dogs are a wonderful idea and if trained properly a total godsend to who the dog is assigned. Sadly though we didn’t many dogs in our facility at the moment so i suggested petfinder.com or looking for a breed rescue. He told me that he’d love an Irish Wolfhound or maybe a Rottweiler type dog since they are so muscular and could probably help him get up off the floor when he fell “It really hurts when I fall since i usually land on my knees (ouch)” I gave him every contact I could think of and gave him some key questions to ask the people at the rescues if he made contact. He asked again about any dog trainer contacts and I gave him those too. “The VA won’t give me any assistance in training my dog so I’ve been doing a lot of research. I have read that a perfect age to start training is about 4-6 months of age”
I told the man I sincerely hoped he was successful in achieving his goal in finding his new best friend and getting it trained into an amazing service dog for him. I can’t imagine living with the disabilities he described. He deserves this. I pray that he finds everything he needs very soon.
and I hope he calls back someday so I can hear all about his dog.