Help Johanna Get Her Service Dog

Hello, my name is Johanna Ruefli. I’m a stage manager living in Portland, Oregon. I’m 40 years old and I’ve been living with bipolar depression and panic disorder since the age of 28. Bipolar depression looks different for different people. For me, it’s affected my life like a rollercoaster.  I’ve gone from a fully functional adult who works a forty hour to 60 hour work week, to being in the hospital for a short inpatient visit.  I take a myriad of medications and go to psychotherapy to cope with my illness. But, unfortunately, bipolar depression is a tenacious illness and it never goes away. There’s always an up and a down. The downs are the worst. Panic and anxiety come with their own trials which includes difficulty around crowds and groups of people. Additionally, I am dealing with chronic back pain due two herniated discs in my lower back. I consider myself to be as functioning a member of my community as possible and feel I have grown tremendously in the past twelve years.

    To what do I attribute my growth and coping skills?  In large part. I credit the unconditional love and support I received from my sweet Springer Spaniel, Lily. In September Lily died at age 13. With her big, understanding, brown eyes, Lily was my Emotional Support dog and since she’s been gone, I’ve just been lost, like missing a part of me. It feels like one of my limbs has been missing. She was the softest dog. I was constantly touching her and not just because doing so helped with my constant anxiety.  There was nothing more heartwarming than when she looked at me with her big brown eyes. Lily was truly my helper in life. She eased my anxiety immensely. Her mere presence could reduce the length or intensity of a panic attack. Walking her helped me leave the house and exercise each day. This helped combat my ongoing lower back pain.

     In my attempt to live as independent a life as possible, I am now seeking not just an Emotional Support dog but a Service Dog. The reason why I want to train a Service dog over an Emotional Support Dog is because a Service dog can be trained to perform tasks that could better assist me with my bipolar depression and panic disorder. This website has taught me a lot about psychiatric service dogs.  I learned that the general recommendation is to get a puppy and use a trainer instead of an agency that trains a dog for the client.  In the instance of a psychiatric service dog, the bond is how the dog learns the owners baseline states during the training.
     Unfortunately, I am not able to afford such a highly trained dog because I live on Social Security Disability and that is why I am asking for your support. Any contribution you can make of any size will go directly toward adopting a puppy from either Oregon Dog Rescue or, Underdog Railroad Rescue here in Oregon; its training and supplies such as food, crate, insurance and toys. Puppy obedience and Canine Good Citizen dog training can be done affordably in my neighborhood at Wet Dog Wellness Center by the trainers at Harmony Canine and Barbara’s Dog Training Advanced training for service dog tasks and the Public Access Test (the test that shows the handler and dog have met the minimum standards to work as a team in public) can be done by one of the trainers at City Dog Country Dog Training .


I am hopeful that, with a properly trained Service Dog and with the proper training myself, I will be able to live a fuller life out in the world and be able to pay this kindness forward. I will post updates and pictures of my journey with my Service Dog as we progress.    

   Thanks for reading this and taking the time to consider helping.



Johanna Ruefli




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Johanna Ruefli 
Portland, OR
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