My Psychiatric Service Dog
This fund is to help me, Andi Fouse, to purchase and train a psychiatric service dog so that I might have a chance to return to a healthy, productive life. Meds I have and they do help, but not enough. This is a possibility of rescue for me, and I'm wildly waving my arms around hoping that maybe someone will see me and throw me a rope.
The Full Story:
My name is Rebecca Fouse, though most of you know me as Andi. Most of my life, I've battled the demons of mental illness, specifically Major Depression, Chronic Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It took me a while to be willing to accept chemical help for my troubles, but once I did I became - and remained for many years - relatively stable. But that was all to change four years ago when, immediately after surviving a dangerous septic infection and a large blood clot in my leg, I found a lump on my left breast.
The cancer would have been difficult in and of itself, of course, but what was worse was the medication changes that had to be made. The cancer medicine couldn't work with the psychiatric medicine I had been on for years, so in the midst of this very stressful time I had to change psychiatric medications. As I'm sure is obvious, this change was extremely difficult. Perhaps I would have leveled out eventually if my body responded well to a different depression medication, but unfortunately it didn't. Nothing seemed to work, and I found myself in a serious battle, sinking down a little deeper each day, trying to find a way to keep my head above water but barely hanging on.
Finally, a year after I had had my successful single mastectomy, I went off of my cancer drug against doctors orders. Now I could go back on the medicine that worked for me! Everything was going to be fine! Except that it wasn't. Some of you may know this already, but let me use an analogy to explain it in case you haven't experienced it yourself. Imagine that you and a friend go walking together. On the walk, your friend's ankle gets hurt and you end up having to help your friend get home. Now imagine the same scenario, except instead of just twisting an ankle, your friend falls down a deep hole. A rescue now will take much more than just a shoulder to lean on on the way home. You'll certainly need some kind of rope, and maybe a harness, possibly a pulley if you don't have the strength to lift them yourself. As they're down in the hole, you have to figure out what tools you can use to get them out, and it's very possible that you'll have to get help from someone else, too. You see, for years, I was the friend with the occasional twisted ankle. I could get along just fine most of the time, but had times when I needed a little extra help (often after the birth or adoption of a new child, for instance). But when my medicine was taken away and one that didn't do anything for me was given in its place, I started to fall into that hole. By the time we were able to put me back on the drugs that had worked before, I was in pretty deep. Just leaning on a shoulder wouldn't work anymore. So my doctor tried different tools to help me - increases in the medicine that had worked, additions of other medicines, varying combinations of drugs and coping skills - but by that point I was so far down in that hole that my doctor couldn't pull me up by himself. After months of tears, pain, and an inability to function, I finally broke down to the point of suicide. I might have succeeded if my wonderful husband hadn't caught me and stopped me. My doctor finally realized that he needed to call in reinforcements, so I was sent to our local mental health facility for one week.
I'm very blessed to live near a hospital with an excellent behavioral health unit, and my time there was extremely helpful. The doctors were able to adjust my medicines far more quickly, I was able to attend group therapy sessions as well as daily sessions with a doctor, and I learned many coping skills. When I was released, I was to the point where I could poke my head above ground. I was still hanging on to the edge, not completely out to where I could stand up again, but so much closer than I had been before.
And honestly, that's where I've mostly been living since then. Unfortunately, my medication is one of the kind that doesn't always work as well if you go off of it and then return to it. Instead of taking one drug and getting by pretty well, I'm now on a regular regimen of three different meds in the morning and one every night with three others to take as needed, and I often still feel like I'm clinging to the side of that hole trying not to fall back in.
Then, when going through a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) class, I found out that I qualify for a psychiatric service dog. These dogs are trained to respond to episodes of depression by drawing their owners out or alerting others to the problem. They're taught to retrieve medication for their owners when needed, and even fetch a beverage so their owners can take the medication. They remind their owners to take their daily medicines when they're supposed to. They're trained to bring a phone to their owners in emergency situation and to answer the front door if their owners are unable to. The dogs are able to carry notes to others in the vicinity and even call 911 via a special K-9 phone. And since the dog's training is personalized, I can also teach mine to help me when my back is hurting by picking items up for me or allowing me to lean on it when necessary.
Once I found out about psychiatric service dogs, I began researching how and where I could get one. Of course, dogs that are already trained are out there, but there's at least a 3 year waiting list to get one. The other option I found was to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder and train it myself with the assistance of a professional service dog trainer. Once again, we are very blessed to have a service dog trainer only an hour from our home, and on her recommendation, I'm in the process of purchasing a Goldendoodle pup - a breed which has been building up an excellent reputation for service dog training.
But nothing is free, and things that are truly valuable are obviously costly. The pup will cost $3,180 including tax, $1,200 of which is now due. Once the pup is paid for and home, the training begins. As you probably know, for a dog to become a service dog, it needs a ton of training. The cost for this training will be spread out over the course of the training itself, but by the time we're done, we will most likely have spent upwards of $13,000 for my pup's education.
I want to be able to live again. I want to be able to volunteer for VBS and kids' teams. I want to be able to call people on the phone without being afraid of a panic attack. I want to climb out of the hole I've been stuck in for so long.
I'm attempting to find a way to earn a bit of extra money so that we can pay for this, but I haven't found anything I can do yet. I'd like to keep the kids in their various lessons that we gave them for Christmas, but we may end up having to pull them out to save some money. But before we do that, I thought I'd put this up in case anyone would like to help us out. Several people have asked over the last few months if there was a way to donate toward my pup, and this seems like the easiest way available.
I hope you can see how much this means to me. This is a chance at a freedom I haven't had in a long time. It's a chance for me to come back to life, to participate and enjoy things again. If any of you want to help me toward that end... I have tears in my eyes just thinking about the friends who have expressed a desire to help me. I will be eternally grateful for any assistance any of you wishes to give. And even if you can't give, please pray with us that we'll have the funds as we need them. God is good and I'm sure He'll answer our prayers!
At this point we're scheduling lessons when we can afford them. Each lesson costs about $250, though that cost will drop to more like $200 in November when Nancy moves closer to us. At some point, we'd also like to send Chezzy for boarding training - a week of intensive training at Nancy's house - but for this we'll need to save up $1500. Please pray with us that the money for various pieces of Chezzy's training will be available to us at exactly the right time for the training to happen. It's in God's hands, and His timing is perfect.
Thank you so much for the prayers and words of encouragement that so many of you have sent our way. They've meant a lot to Joel and I over the past several months. May God richly bless each and every one of you for the love you've shown us through your support. <3 <3
Now for the next step...
Our training begins tomorrow. The first set of classes costs $800 plus travel fees for the trainer. If we want her to have a one-week intensive class in the trainer's home, that's another $1,500.
We can pay for the first classes in installments, but they're a little more expensive that way. That may be the way we need to do it, though.
Prayers for funds are much appreciated as well as prayers for my back which has been acting up badly lately. Thank you to all of you who have supported us and are continuing to do so through prayer and financial donations.
I am so sorry you have been suffering for so long. I too have chronic depression and GAD and have been suffering for ten years. Have tried so many medications and none have really worked. I have no money to donate but would love to talk to you if your interested. Again, sorry I can't donate as we are barely getting by bc I cannot work.