My trauma began when I was sixteen months old and I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. Growing up I had numerous medical procedures and scary nights alone in hospital rooms. When I was thirteen I lost my father, who I was very close to. My life went into a tailspin and I had trouble looking after my diabetes.
When I was twenty I started college, but my poor health soon caught up with me. I went blind from diabetic retinopathy. It took two years and four major surgeries to get my vision (mostly) back. I returned to college and finished a diploma in radio broadcasting. However, right after graduation my kidneys failed and had to turn down my job offer.
I spent four years on dialysis during which time I endured some very traumatic medical procedures and a few medical mistakes. I would have died had I not had a multi-organ transplant in 2007. At this time I was ready to re-enter the work force, but my college training had become out of date and obsolete.
The only employment I could find was at a slaughterhouse. The years I spent killing pigs were disastrous to my physical and mental health. I survived three life threatening workplace accidents and witnessed so many things I don’t want to think about.
In 2014 I was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. My symptoms include severe anxiety, hypervigilance, flashbacks, depression, sleeping problems, irritability, clasterphobia and nightmares. I find certain medical procedures so stressful that I have to be sedated or anesthetized.
I have tried every treatment for PTSD that I can access including medication, cognitive behaviour therapy and psychotherapy from a physician. This doctor has recommended I get a PTSD service dog.
The dog will help me in a few different ways:
1. The symptom that I believe she will help with the most is the hyper-vigilance. A service dog will help because she will always be looking around for me and will be trained to block someone who is coming up behind me.
Unfortunately my hyper-vigilance is not always irrational. In 2016 I was the victim of police misconduct. In February I was sleeping in my hospital bed when I was grabbed by a technician. And in July I was car jacked. That last one has made going out in public, especially alone, very stressful. When criminals see me with a big German Shepherd they will think twice about victimizing me since the breed is notoriously protective of family members, and a bite from such a dog can be quite serious. The dog I will be getting is passive and gentle and isn’t a biting risk, but a criminal doesn’t know that.
Because going out in public is so stressful for me, my wife is obligated to go with me, even if it's just for a walk or taking my kids to the park. A service dog will give me the option of going out alone.
2. My 4 year old son, Gage, has been diagnosed with ADHD. I find supervising him in pubic to be very stressful. His doctor told me that a service dog could be trained to retrieve him (i.e. redirect him as if he were a sheep) if he runs away from me. I can’t run after him because I have osteoarthritis in my feet.
3. When professionals see that I have a service dog, they will be obligated to take my disability seriously. She will also identify me as disabled to the public.
4. A service dog will oblige me to get out of bed and out of the house every morning.
5. I find crowds very stressful. A service dog will keep people from crowding me, such as on the subway or on elevators.
6. A service dog will help ground me during a flashback.
7. A service dog will help me get through stressful medical procedures. My doctor says she can put her upper body on my lap during a blood test so I can focus on her rather than the test.
8. A service dog can be trained to recognize my anxiety attacks and take me out of a stressful situation.
9. A service dog can even be trained to remind me to take my medication.
10. As some of you know I am involved with outreach to methadone users through Little Trinity Church. We offer them coffee and breakfast two Saturdays a month. I would love to visit these friends more often, on my own, but I won’t be able to until I have my four-legged bodyguard with me (see reason 1).
Unfortunately, there are too few organizations who train PTSD service dogs in Canada. The organization that do are charities who give the dogs for free. But since the dogs cost $30,000 *each* to train, the number of dogs they can provide are very limited, and they are reserved for servicemen, veterans and first responders. They are overwhelmed with applications and the waitlist is about two years long.
My wife started looking at organizations in the USA that would be willing to sell us a service dog. She located a very reputable service dog company, north of West Palm Beach, Florida called Canines 4 Hope. I spoke to the owner Jason, on the phone. He is very knowledgeable about what I needed and what kind of dog would be good for me.
I was praying last Saturday about this situation, just asking for Jesus to help and I got a text from Jason. He said he has a German Shepherd he thinks will be perfect for me. She is a sweet, gentle dog in a “don’t mess with me” dog’s body. He’s only had her a month and she’ll need a few more months of training.
The cost of the dog is $14,000 US, which is over $17,000 Canadian. I will also need to find the money to travel to Florida and stay there for a 5 days while the dog and I will learn to work together. And since I can’t travel alone, my wife will have take a week off work and to come with me, which is an added expense.
I am asking from the bottom of my heart. This could change my life. If you can spare any small amount it would help.
God Bless you all and thank you for your support.
Tim & Katherine Fretwell
Below is a Picture of Suzy who is being trained for me right now.
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