Where you go to find a service dog depends on the disability. Dogs can be trained to be hearing dogs for the deaf, guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for other behavioral and mental-health issues. Service dogs can be trained to pick up and return dropped items, turn off and on lights, tug and push a wheelchair and provide medical alerts. Regardless of the organization, the steps involved in how to obtain a service dog are similar.
Step #1 - Find and select an organization near you that trains the specific type of dog you need: hearing, guide or service. The Internet is an invaluable resource. A good place to start is assistancedogsinternational.org, where you can find general information and links to organizations that can help you. For hearing dogs, dogsforthedeaf.org is a good place to continue your search. For guide dogs, the website guidedogs.com may be useful.
Step #2 - Fill out and submit the application. Many organizations require you to be at least 18 years old. Most organizations provide their applications online.
Step #3 - Wait for a response. There is a high demand for assistance dogs and many applications received daily, which can cause a week or two delay in response.
Step #4 - Go onto a waiting list of approved clients to get into a training class. Most organizations have a high demand and must put limits on the number of people who can be in training at any given time.
Step #5 - Get scheduled for training sessions on how to work with and handle the dog. Depending on the specialization of the dog and the organization, training can take from two to six weeks. You will be expected to travel to and stay in the area where the organization and dog are located for the duration of the training.
Step #6 - Pass the tests in your training and get certified by the organization.
Step #7 - Take your service dog home.
Step #8 - Prepare for follow-up and home visits by the organization to monitor client/service dog's relationship. Typically, you should expect monthly visits for the first six months and once per year thereafter.
By Kate Lacey
Do your research and be sure the organization is reputable and a legitimate service-dog organization. Many of these organizations will not charge you for the dog, but you may have to pay your own travel, lodging and training costs. Also, be wary of organizations that offer to train your pet into a service dog. Most service dogs are groomed from birth until 1 1/2 to two years of age for the purpose of assisting people with disabilities.
About the Author
Kate Lacey attained her M.A. from Miami University and published the title story in "The Answer, My Friend and Other Stories." Lacey teaches English at Miami University, Northern Kentucky University, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College since 1993. Other publications include articles on Einstruction.com and "Curve Magazine."