Service Dog for Ashley's Recovery

$2,970 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 34 people in 24 months
22275966_1547517117843864_r.jpegUpdate as of 1/14/19:

Axel is now 6.5 months old! Axel has so much potential and is doing very well in his training so far. At 6.5 months he currently knows: sit, lay down, watch me, wait, stay, take it, drop, come, leave it, touch, place, on your mat, up, and off. We are also working on a chin rest, paw targeting, and loose leash walking.

At this point in his training I am needing more professional help, as my disabilities are beginning to affect his training. There is a wonderful board and train program in Visalia, CA that helps individuals train their service dogs. The two month program costs $5,000. 

If you have the means, please consider donating so that I can send him to get the training he needs that I am unable to provide right now. I have put so much into this and am not going to give up now, but I need your help.

My story:

Hi, my name is Ashley and I am 25 years old. Creating this campaign has taken a lot of thought and courage. Something I have learned throughout my journey of recovery is that sometimes the most couragous thing a person can do is reach out for support. My goal through this is to be as transparent as I can be while still maintaining my own sense of safety. So here is some of my story...

My eating disorder began when I was about 13 years old. It started gradually, but by the time I was about 15 years old I was deep in a spiral of self-hatred and self-destruction...though it was not something I ever chose, my eating disorder was my way of coping with a childhood of painful memories... 

In the midst of everything, life threw me a curveball...

When I was 16 years old I began having severe, debilitating headaches that resulted from almost any kind of movement: sneezing, laughing, turning my head, looking down, coughing, etc. The pain was so severe and was accompanied by loss of balance, tingling in my fingertips, loss of hearing, dizziness, and disorientation. My mom brought me to the doctor who dismissed my symptoms as "muscle tension." Several more months went by and the symtoms were getting worse and more frequent. I was no longer able to function in my daily life. My mom, having attended medical school, knew something much more serious was going on. 

I went back to the doctor and this time they ordered in immediate MRI of my brain. 

The day after the MRI was my high school homecoming, and being on the dance team, we were scheduled to perform at the football game. My team and I were stretching and getting ready to perform when I got an urgent phone call from my mom. She had just received an after hours phone call from a nurse regarding my MRI results. I had a severe form of Arnold Chiari Malformation and was to avoid, at all costs, doing anything that would cause my symptoms. Such symptoms could at any point cause paralysis, brain damage, or death.

I would need brain surgery. 

My whole world froze. Was this a nightmare? 

I stepped off the football field only minutes from our performance, overwhelmed with fear.

Fast forward....I ended up requiring two brain surgeries which I had in November of 2009 and then again in January of 2010.

Complication arose from my surgeries and I ended up with an infection in my brain and an almost completely numb right leg.

I was hospitalized several more times and although unrelated to my brain malformation, my team of doctors also discovered I had a fracture and slipped disc in my lower spine after a sudden, severe onset of back pain.

I was placed in a combersome back brace for approximately 4 months to stabilize my spine.

My brain surgeries and back brace certainly improved my pain but it never fully went away. After the trauma of such life threatening medical issues, the eating disorder came back in full force. I managed to still graduate high school with my class and went off to college.

With my first taste of freedom, my eating disorder took hold. My peers and school became concerned and soon required that I take a medical leave to go to treatment...

I began my recovery journey in December of 2011 when I was admitted into inpatient treatment for Anorexia Nervosa. When I began treatment I was under the impression that I would spend 30 days inpatient and then I would be ready to go home and move forward with my life. I really had no idea....

I spent the next 3 years in and out of treatment facilities, hospitals, therapist offices, and group rooms. What I didn't understand when I first began my journey towards recovery was that the reason for my eating disorder had nothing to do with food, calories, and weight. My eating disorder was my way of surviving. It was my way of blocking out the memories my mind and body weren't ready to remember. 

So when I arrived in treatment and began nourishing my body for the first time in 6 years, the coping mechanism I had used for so long could no longer protect me. I quickly realized that the pain I was trying to ease and the fear I was trying to calm was rooted in my childhood. 

The flashbacks and body memories began; the trauma was surfacing because I was no longer pushing it down and numbing it out. Beginning as young as the age of 3 or 4 years old my father used my body in ways a child should never experience. His torture continued into my teenage years until he got reported to the authorities. 

I have come so far in my recovery from Anorexia, however the PTSD, and subsequent anxiety and depression, are things I will live with for the rest of my life, to one degree or another. I continue seeing a therapist to process the pieces of my trauma that arise, though I have really only begun the work I need to heal. I've only touched the tip of the iceberg and have much work to do in order to heal the deep wounds of my past. 

For quite some time I was on a couple different psychiatric medications that helped lessen the symptoms I was experiencing due to my PTSD. However, due to unknown reasons (however likely attributable to my eating disorder), my heart no longer tolerates the medication. About a couple years ago after my last, hard relapse into my Anorexia, my heart began reacting to any psychiatric medication my doctor prescribed me. I was having palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and trouble breathing. It got so bad one afternoon my roommate had to call 911 and I was rushed to the ER.

Due to the persistent and intrusive symptoms of my PTSD, depression, and anxiety and the ongoing pain from my spinal injuries and occasional flare-ups from my brain malformation, I am needing another form of assistance.

My therapist and primary care doctor both agree I am in need of a service dog. I was initially hoping to train my current dog as my service dog, however she is not suited to do some of the work I am needing. She will instead remain a beloved pet and emotional support.

I have decided the best breed for my needs is a Golden Retriever. I have chosen to purchase a puppy that I will self-train with the assistance of a professional trainer. This method will best fit my needs. The puppy itself will cost around $2,000-$2,500. It takes about two years for a service dog to be fully trained, so with that, training will end up costing about $3,000-$3,500 (at one class/week and $32/class). Lastly, I will need to fund initial vet bills, vaccines, flea/heart worm treatments, spay surgery, and necessary supplies and equipment (food, treats, leash, harness, vest, collar, etc.).

I hope that through my own savings, fundraising, and donations I can afford to bring home a puppy to begin training as my service dog sometime in 2018.

I will train the dog to alert and respond to my flashbacks, provide tactile stimulation for grounding, check my apartment and turn on lights when arriving home so I can feel safe, and create a physical barrier between me and others when out in public. I will also train him/her for object retrieval for use during flare-ups of physical pain.

I have fought so long and hard my whole life just to survive and now it's time I accept support so I can do more than just make it by. 

Thank you for reading my story and helping in any way possible. I am nervous and hopeful about the journey ahead of me. I would be happy to answer any questions that may arise. I am forever grateful for the support I already have in my life and just as grateful for the support that is to come. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Hi friends and family!

It has been a while since I've sent out an update so I think it is time! Most of you have probably seen occasional updates on Facebook or for those who are following Axel on Instagram, you see his daily posts! For those who are not on my social media accounts, however, I want to keep you involved! This may get lengthy, so no hard feelings if you don't get through it all!

Axel is now 4 months old (as of yesterday) and 30lbs!

He is doing wonderfully with potty training and is now beginning to ask to go outside when he needs to.

He is VERY food motivated and learns very quickly as a result!

He of course wants to put everything is his mouth but is doing well with "drop it" and "leave it."

He loves to jump which has been one of our biggest areas of work over the last several weeks. He wants to jump on counters because he thinks whatever is up there must be amazing and he wants to jump on people because he loves everybody and wants to give all the kisses! I have been working diligently to teach him that he needs to keep all four on the floor to get what he wants. It's a work in progress but we are making strides!

He does very well in his crate while I'm not home and at night to sleep. His crate training was rough in the beginning but I took it very slowly and that work has paid off!

He was having quite a bit of anxiety in the car and it took me a while to figure out why. Through consulting with my trainer we discovered it was due to separation anxiety rather than the car itself. My other dog, Avery, has been very helpful in this regard! She is very calm in the car so I've been putting her in the back with him to show him there is nothing to be anxious about. We are still working on this as well but making a lot of progress.

Speaking of Avery, Axel and Avery love each other (most of the time haha)! They play together all the time and share their toys nicely. Avery has been so helpful in tiring him out (which keeps me sane), teaching him bite inhibition and how to be gentle with little dogs, calm behavior in the car and in the crate, and I'm sure numerous other things I can't think of at the moment.

Axel has been attending puppy pre-k classes on Saturday mornings where he learns how to play appropriately with other puppies of all different kinds. This Saturday will be his last puppy pre-k and then he will move up to puppy manners (which is just beginning obedience for puppies).

He has already learned a lot of basic commands but puppy manners will help add more distraction to what he already knows.

At this moment Axel knows: sit, lay down, up, off, place (into his crate), wait, leave it, touch, watch me, and on your mat. Some of these cues he has mastered quite well, others are still in progress.

I usually bring him on about 3 outings each week. He is very focused on me in public which has been wonderful. He is not very confident going inside places yet as he is still getting used to all of the different things out in the world. We have made short trips inside Target, CVS, and Starbucks. We have been outside many more locations such as Whole Foods, Jamba Juice, parks, etc.

Though he is uncertain and lacking some confidence, the only real fear he has shown so far has been of certain Halloween decorations we came across in CVS. I anticipated this to be the case and purchased the few items he was afraid of so we can work on his fears at home where he is most comfortable.

Lastly, I have attached some photos for your enjoyment! And again, thank you so much for your support, I couldn't have done it without you! I will be looking for more ways to fundraiser in the near future, as training a service dog is a long and expensive process. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions in regards to alternative fundraising please contact me!

Axel and I are off to a great start! We have a long way to go but he continues to impress me with his intelligence and eagerness to learn!
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It's official! I go to pick up my puppy on August 30th! The breeder is watching all of the little guys grow to decide which puppy she thinks will best fit my needs for a service dog. I'm very excited and can't believe it's finally happening! I will continue to post updates and pictures as I receive them.
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Puppies have arrived!! (pictures coming soon)

The breeder I will be getting a puppy from actually had two litters five days apart. The first litter was born June 22nd and the second litter was born June 28th!

The breeder and I have decided a boy puppy will be the best fit for me. Between the two litters there will be 6 boys to choose from.

At about 7 weeks old the breeder will do temperament testing and that, combined with her observations of the puppies over the course of those 7-8 weeks, will decide which puppy will best fit my needs for a service dog.

I will be going to visit the breeder and meet all of the puppies once they are 4 weeks old (in about a month).

I will then be bringing my puppy home sometime during the last couple weeks of August!

After that, training will begin. For the first several months our focus will be socialization and creating positive experiences out in the world, as well as, basic obedience. It's important to let the puppy be a puppy first so they don't burn out.

I have raised enough money to purchase the puppy and begin training classes, however, I will still need to raise some more money in order to complete the full two years of training that it typically takes to train a service dog (give and take).

Thanks again for everyone's support! It has been a long wait but the time has finally come!
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Hi friends!

After a long while of waiting I finally have an update! I have found a wonderful breeder whom has bred one of her females. There are still no guarantees, but if she does get pregnant and all goes well, the puppies will be born in mid-June and then be ready to go home around the end of August.

I have also decided to provide a little more information about my story, so check it out if you wish!

Lastly, I have adjusted the goal I am trying to reach. I have found a couple small businesses who have generously offered to help with fundraising. I have thus, updated the total to reflect the remaining amount I am needing to raise.

As puppy time gets closer I need your help to share this page and make any donations possible, even if it is only $5. Every little bit helps!

Thanks again for all of your support!
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$2,970 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 34 people in 24 months
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