Who I am:
Hello there! My name is Sydney. I am 24 years old and am studying to become a communications professional. I am enrolled at Grand Valley State University part time and work at my dad and uncles’ small business. I am a creative and intuitive individual who loves to write, read, make art, and pet puppies. My passions in life include literature, animals, fashion, thrifting, and making the people I love laugh! You can find me volunteering at the Humane Society some days, searching every nook and cranny of local thrift stores for the best deals, and with my nose in a book and a Venti Americano in my hand.
My health issue:
I have a pesky disability called Bipolar Disorder. Unfortunately, it causes me to experience both deep bouts of depression and anxiety-ridden circumstances of mania and delusional thought patterns. Lots of people like to call BP the “mood swing” disorder, which is kind of accurate in a minimalistic sort of way. The most problematic part about having BP is that I never know what I’m going to feel like when I wake up in the morning.
Some of you may be aware of some instances that occurred that I’m not too proud of. Due to my illness, I have been hospitalized 5 times, 4 of those times because I attempted to take my own life. When I am coping well, I know in my heart that I want, and God wants me to be alive. But in those moments, the depression became so intense I couldn’t bear it. This unfortunately happens to many more people than any of us realize. I am so blessed that I was unsuccessful in my attempts and am here today to tell my story and help others.
Many health professionals will tell you that bipolar disorder is one of the most “expensive” psychological disorders. This is for several reasons. The rate at which people with BP are hospitalized is significantly higher than for those with other mental health struggles. Additionally, the disorder often requires medications to treat a combination of problems rather than a single symptom, including depression (antidepressants or SSRIs), mania (antipsychotics), mood stabilization, and anxiety (benzodiazepines). Bipolar people without insurance can sometimes expect their monthly prescription bills to be around $200 or more. This does not include the cost of weekly or biweekly therapy and bi-monthly psychiatry costs which average at around $150 a session.
Bipolar disorder affects only about 2.8% of the American population (phew), but even within a given diagnosis of BP, there are ranges of severity. My case is quite severe. I have medications that help, but bipolar disorder is—as of now—a lifelong illness. No one has found a cure for it yet. This means that my only options for the time being are to treat the symptoms. Also, among the 2% of people diagnosed, 82% are considered “severely impaired,” which means that they are unable to function the same way a healthy person does. I’ve learned to be okay with that! But I’d like to take every opportunity that there is to live a full life at my greatest potential. That’s why I’ve decided to start The Good Dog Campaign.
What is Good Dog:
The Good Dog Campaign is my own personal fundraiser to help me get a service puppy in training! My Rosey girl. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am a CRAZY DOG LADY (pun intended?), but this is actually not the reason I am asking for help. Studies have proven that animals, and particularly dogs, have magical healing powers. Kidding! But sort of not… Owning a dog has been proven to decrease scores of several issues that people with bipolar struggle with, including loneliness, anxiety, panic, isolation, and communication within relationships. I am willing to provide stats and sources if you’d like, but most people find that boring J But on top of the positive effects of animals in general, service animals can learn behaviors that are potentially life-saving.
After basic obedience training, I’d like to teach the following skills: 1) The dog would remind me to take my medication, which was something that I’ve struggled with and ended up in the hospital as a result of. 2) She would learn anxiety relieving behaviors, particularly Deep Pressure Therapy. 3) The dog would interrupt self-harm behaviors, and 4) Alert someone if I became unresponsive, which could potentially save my life, since I live alone and have a history of suicidal ideations.
Non-profit service dog providers have waiting lists that start at around a year and go up to 5 years. The two area providers I contacted aren’t even accepting applications for the next year. The need is extraordinary. So I checked out private, for-profit providers and discovered that trained service dogs begin at $30,000! (I really should’ve gone to school for this…)
However, I had a wonderful experience training my own dog, Daisy. Anyone who knew her knows she was well-behaved, well-mannered, gentle, and sweet (until the old-age barking kicked in, ugh). I absolutely loved training her as well. So I did extensive research into training my own service dog. I found that not only is it possible, but tons of people do it!
The cost to adopt a dog is minimal, and I would be able to afford that, no problem. However, professionals highly recommend that a service dog begin training as a puppy (as early as 10 weeks), and that she passes extensive temperament and aggression tests before being selected as a candidate. Even with this, the rate of a dog graduating as a successful assistance animal is around 35%. This rate increases with various breeds and it is also recommended that they be purebred. Thus begins my financial struggle.
The breeds I’ve selected to explore are the highest on service dog quality charts. Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Dalmatian, and German Shepherd. The prices of the puppies begin at around $650 and can go up to $3000.
After purchasing the puppy, there will unavoidably be lots of bills, at least in the first year. A budget that I made with a service dog provider’s suggestions totaled about $1600 for the first year and went down to about $850 per year after. In addition to this, there is the cost of the online service training course I’ve chosen to use. This course is highly recommended and insured. It costs $1000 until graduation, estimated to be about two months of consistent training after the puppy gets her Canine Good Citizenship certification.
Here is a brief summary of what I will probably be paying for the first year that is in addition to a normal dog care budget:
- Purebred puppy with service background: $400
- K-9 Alert System: $250
- Service Gear: $100
- Clicker Training Gear: $50
- Canine Good Citizen Certificate: $50
- Psychological Assistance training program: $1000
- Total: $1850
What you get when you donate:
If you choose to donate to The Good Dog Campaign, I will always be grateful to you. Having a service dog has the potential to significantly change my life. I am more than happy to answer any questions that you have about this!
After a donation, I invite you to send me your address so that I can mail you a hand-drawn thank you with a picture of the puppy. I’ll also mail you a Sydney-and-Friend Christmas card of the (hopefully) soon to be dynamic-duo!
I plan to start a Facebook page and Instagram account dedicated to our journey as a team. You will be able to see the training process, follow the puppy as she grows, and see firsthand how your donation affected my life!
Even the fact that you took the time to read this means the world. If you aren’t able to donate, that is totally okay! I’d love it if you would share my page in order to reach as many people as possible. Feel free to message me at any time!
Thank you! Much love,
Sydney & Rosey
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