Therapeutic Dog for the Elstons


First off, I'll say... this feels ridiculous... asking for help in this way, but maybe we just aren't good as asking/realizing we need help? BUT we have always had such great support from our church, family, friends... both local and afar.  We know YOU have always wanted to play a role in carrying our burden. So, I'm here... asking for help.  
We want a dog. Yep. We are like any other family with small kids that long to have a pet. One that requires special attention, extra meals, clean-up, potty training, sleep-training, teething... WAIT A MINUTE. Is that what I'm signing up for? I've already done that AND AM STILL doing that around here? 

Now do you see where I'm going with this? We are a family of 4 kids! Lily is turning 10, Reese is 8 and both are homeschooling this year so that we had some more time together outside of the crazy after-school evening hours.  Caleb is 6.5 and is everyone's hero! Finley will be turning 2 and let me tell you... he is both hilarious and a handful. That kid is 110% his mama and personality to the hilt... but I guarantee you that's not always fun in a toddler package. 
Caleb has a genetic disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. It is just that... COMPLEX. He does and has suffered from daily seizures most of his life. He has heart tumors, kidney tumors, skin tumors... developmental delays, behaviors delays, Autism... He most recently had a series of brain surgeries in June that has drastically reduced his seizure load and we are oh so thankful! To share an update, he has had a handful of bigger seizures since, small ones daily but NO emergency med seizures since surgery. He was having several small ones every day, 1-2 big ones every day and emergency status seizures about every 2-3 weeks prior to surgery! We are thrilled. 
Caleb continues to battle the behavior side effects of the disease and/or medications. His communication is great but far from typical and usually requires some gestures, guiding you by hand and a few words. More complex communication can often times bring on a total meltdown or rather getting told "no" can/will produce the same thing. He is being trained now on a communication device that we pray will be super helpful! He also reaches meltdown status at certain times in his day, after some medication, after seizures, etc. These can be long and tiring and draining on us all! He requires 1:1 attention the majority of the day and it's all-hands-on-deck most of the time. Sometimes our tantrums involve screaming, throwing, kicking or banging the walls... they can last for extreme amounts of time and we aren't always sure of the trigger. Autism? Seizure? Medication? Defiance? Combo? I only try to explain a snippet of our lives so that you might understand... 
So, where does that bring us? That brings us to a very chaotic life! One that leaves us taking one day at a time because much more than that causes me to hyperventalate. I have studied up on dogs over the past 3 years and have strongly considered a service dog for Caleb. That will require another massive fundraising effort and a more complicated process... several year wait, in most cases, and the dog is a "working dog" with pretty strict guidelines for how and when and who the dog is attatched to. We've really grappled with the idea but feel strongly that we ALL need that beloved pet right now? We want a famiy dog that has therapy dog potential. NOT service dog necessarily: therapy dog. There is a difference.   We've studied up on the process and breeds and training and the waters get muddy because it's not something you can abolustely predict.  BUT from what we have learned and deciphered, we are chosing the best breed for us that has the potential and pedigree to provide what we need.  This dog will also be trained before he/she comes home to us through a live-in-trainer program. That means fully potty trained, follows commands, doesn't jump/nip/bark/bite to the chaos of our family or the outbursts of our son.  We will have to continue through 2 more tiers of "training" over the next year or two to see if we can achieve "therapy dog" status and ear the vest... but we have high hopes that could be possible. 
Medical science shows that interaction with a therapy dog can reduce blood pressure; promote physical healing; reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression; and provide emotional support. On top of that, there is a strong chance that the dog can still learn to alert us of seizures from her natural instincts! BUT TO BE CLEAR : we will not be getting a trained therapy dog... we are trying to buy a trained puppy with the right temperment to grow into a therapy dog. 
We recognize that a dog will add responsilbiity to our lives. Hence the pretty amazing price tag... we are going for the best dog with the best training that we can find in our area that might serve our needs without adding more stress to our lives. The cost is high... and it's why we are reaching out for help.  Thanks for reading my novel ;) And please, no pressure! We have chosen a dog that's already in training now!! She will be ready Jan 30th if we are (Christmas miracle?)... if not, we will continue on working and raising for one of the later pups. 
*$1900 for the cost of the well-bred golden doodle in the medium size range (40-50lbs prediction) with low/no shedding coat
*9,900  for 3 full months of living with trainer to be:-
--HOUSE TRAINED  (Crated 8-9 hours at night without accidents. Able to hold between potty breaks for 3 hours during the day. Able to eliminate with the 'go potty' command. To rarely chew something
inappropriate while someone is present
Understand the ‘leave it’ command quickly
Nip/Jump-trained -to never bite hands and rarely jump up on people
-outside trained( ‘Sit’- (from 15 feet away for 30 seconds) ‘Down’ – (from 15 feet away for 30 seconds)
‘Ok' - as permission to stop sitting/staying
‘Come’- voice command from a distance of 30 feet
‘Off’ - to respond immediately if jumping up ever occurs
‘Go to your bed’– to go immediately to a designated open bed or mat and stay there for 30 seconds
Stair Trained– to be able to go up and down stairs at a reasonable pace.
--LEASH TRAINED (Leash Trained– to walk on the left side and rarely pull. Know how to auto-sit each time the walker stops. Car Driving– take a ride without having any potty accidents for 4 hours)
--HIGHLY SOCIALIZED (Used to visiting other people’s homes, pet-friendly stores, and dog parks/walks
Accustomed to individual and groups of children of various ages.  Accustomed to being handled by a veterinarian and health professionals
Accustomed to being handled by a groomer
Familiar with television noise, sounds of household appliances, loud music, sounds of traffic, and blow dryers.) 

Thanks in advance for even considering! We recognize there are needs FAR GREATER than ours! 
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Kristi Pernell Elston 
Fairfax, VA
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