Service Dog Gracie for TBI Survivor

$5,295 of $15k goal

Raised by 48 people in 3 months
JD
Joseph Martins, DVM
on behalf of Greg Costa
 HILLSBOROUGH, NJ
I am advocating on behalf of my family member, Greg Costa, one of the most generous and passionate souls that you will ever meet. He is an accomplished drummer, a budding writer, and most recently, a traumatic brain injury survivor. He sustained major injuries to his spine and brain from a fall approximately 6 years ago. The immediate next 3 months for Greg were followed by severe neck and back pain that progressed to unresolved post-traumatic syndrome.  X-rays and MRI revealed disc herniations and the presence of a large congenital Arachnoid Cyst in Greg’s brain. This post-concussion or post traumatic syndrome for Greg was characterized by vascular and cervicogenic muscular headaches, constant cluster migraines, dizziness, vertigo, memory loss, cognitive impairment and eventually progressed to collapse and seizures.

The recovery process has been challenging, educational, and painful for Greg – he continues to struggle with major and minor physical symptoms. This cyst has become a source of many current medical issues, ranging from insomnia to seizures, as well, as a reduced sense of health and well-being. Dark glasses, for example, have become a necessity to shield from sensory overload.

Greg has sought the help of a number of skilled surgeons regarding the removal or reduction of the cyst, and has been met with disappointment. Through constant effort to regain as much of his former independent lifestyle as he once knew it, he set out to create greater awareness of the challenges faced by those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) through continued writing and community involvement. But the struggle to navigate daily activities that others so easily take for granted continues and hampers his efforts.

As a veterinarian quite familiar with the benefits of service animals to those who are disabled, I truly believe that Gracie will transform Greg’s life in so many unbelievable ways. I felt compelled to become more active in this process of making sure that Gracie comes into Greg’s life because the expense of a trained service dog is yet another burden to bear for a family already stretched financially just to help Greg through his daily challenges and frequent doctor visits due to his TBI.

Service dogs are not considered pets. A true service dog is protected by the American Disabilities Act and is a highly trained animal that meets certain standards (quite different from an emotional support or therapy dog.) For example, some dogs are trained to pull wheelchairs, others are taught to alert to the sounds of the telephone, oven timers, alarm clocks, smoke alarms, and even a baby’s cry. Unlike therapy dogs, service dogs and their human companions must be allowed access to buildings (including restaurants, libraries, supermarkets, and churches), transportation systems, and other public areas and services. Another difference between therapy and service dogs is that the latter are often picked by breed for certain characteristics.

This process is in active motion right now. Greg applied for a service dog at Wilderwood, an amazing nonprofit organization based in Maryville, Tennessee, which trains service dogs for people with neurological diseases ranging from brain disorders such as Alzheimer's dementia, to autism and brain injury. Greg was approved as a candidate for a service dog, and Gracie was identified as a match. She is a black and white Goldendoodle, born April 23, 2016, in Alabama at a place called Smeralia where she was handled with love. Gracie was then transported to Wilderwood in Tennessee where she has been living for the past 3 months as part of her 18-month long training as a service dog. She currently spends her nights at a wonderful foster family home and then spends her days training at Wilderwood with some of the best and most professional trainers for service dogs in the country.

The founder of Wilderwood believes, as I do, that what happens to a person's soul, and then their perception, in the presence of a beloved service animal is far reaching. Service dogs help individuals gain independence, both emotional and physical. Not only do service dogs provide unconditional love and support, they assist in all facets of life; behavioral, emotional and physical. And at the end of Gracie’s 18-month training, she will be ready to assist Greg in all his daily activities.

Greg’s life mission now is to help other TBI survivors through his own advocacy projects. But he cannot do it alone. With Gracie by his side, Greg will gain in confidence and ability to continue pursuing his dream of helping others suffering from traumatic brain injury. Over $5,000 has already been invested in Gracie, and she is currently protected with Trupanion Pet insurance in case of any unexpected emergencies - but the mission to unite Gracie with Greg Costa cannot be accomplished without Gracie being completely funded. Our Goal is to take the stress of present and future finances off the shoulders of Greg and beautiful Gracie and let them focus all their time on healing and service. A donation in any amount will be deeply appreciated.  Thanks for caring!

Visit www.wilderwood.org to learn more about Wilderwood's service dog training program.

Picture above indicates Greg's Arachnoid Cyst

Greg Costa (left) with Joseph Martins, DVM



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Update 13
Posted by Joseph Martins, DVM
8 days ago
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Today is another special opportunity for us to express our gratitude for all those who have donated to Gracie’s service dog training so far and thank you all for sharing her cause with others. Gracie has made significant progress with her training, but there is still a long way to go. Our wish is to reach our funding goal and see that Gracie completes her training and is united with Greg Costa later this year. With Gracie by his side, Greg plans to continue down his chosen path with confidence and commitment to help others with Traumatic Brain Injury. We believe it’s a worthy cause and hope that you do too. Thanks again for donating, sharing, and caring. Happy Valentine’s Day from Gracie!
Happy Valentine's Day from Gracie!
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Update 12
Posted by Joseph Martins, DVM
8 days ago
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Hi Everyone!

Gracie continues to make progress with her Service Dog Training from Wilderwood. Here is another video showing you how far she has come with her “stay” command! She will make a wonderful companion to Greg Costa at the end of her training period. The goal of the service dog for brain injury survivors is to aid them in achieving as much independence as possible. Service dogs also offer companionship, decrease isolation and improve physical mobility. Though the range of illnesses involving the brain is expansive, there are a few key symptoms that cross nearly all neurological diseases. Wilderwood focuses their core training on these key symptoms. Then during the last three months of training, the trainer will specialize tasks to Greg’s specific needs. There's still a long way to go to meet our 15K goal, so please continue to share Gracie’s cause when you have a spare moment. Thank you for caring!
Gracie in Service Dog Training Jan 2017
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Update 11
Posted by Joseph Martins, DVM
25 days ago
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Hi Everyone,

We have the cutest photo to share with you of Gracie today! She is really enjoying her outings with her foster family and the trainer from Wilderwood! Her progress is steady, and she is learning all the skills she’ll need to assist Greg in his daily tasks. Those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury like Greg may struggle with balance, confusion, disorientation, difficulty in communicating, and an array of physical symptoms at any given time. Gracie is learning how to become a trusted companion to Greg under many varied circumstances that she may encounter with him. Service Dogs are protected under the American with Disabilities Act and therefore Gracie will be allowed to accompany Greg to public restaurants, libraries, supermarkets, churches, transportation systems, and more. Her companionship will add confidence and make a big difference in his life! Thanks for all the donations so far! Rest assured that I will be withdrawing donated funds under my name on Greg’s behalf and sending him the donated money by check so that payments for Gracie’s service dog training can be made to Wilderwood. We still have a way to go to reach our $15K goal, the cost for this specialized, 18 month long service dog training from Wilderwood. They are the only facility in the country at this writing who can offer service dog training with a medical staff and trainers who are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of brain disorders and are able to train service dogs with exacting skills for such diagnosis. We are so fortunate to have found them, and we thank all of you for supporting this cause! As always, Sharing is Caring too!
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Update 10
Posted by Joseph Martins, DVM
29 days ago
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Hi Everyone!

We wanted to share a brief update about Gracie! She continues to make progress with her service dog training. Her wonderful trainers from Wilderwood and her loving foster family give her lots of opportunity to explore the world and learn. Here is a recent photo of her enjoying her first snow! As always, we thank everyone for their generosity in donating to this cause. We still have a long way to go to reach our goal of $15K – the cost of training a service dog to meet the varied needs of her human companion match (Traumatic Brain Injury survivor) - so please share our cause and let’s all help Gracie make it home to Greg Costa at the end of her training period. In addition to donating, Sharing is Caring too!
Gracie's first snow!
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 446 shares on Facebook
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$5,295 of $15k goal

Raised by 48 people in 3 months
Created November 1, 2016
JD
Joseph Martins, DVM  
on behalf of Greg Costa
HP
$5
Helena Paxton
26 days ago
HP
$5
Helena Paxton
26 days ago
JD
$100
Joseph Dickens
28 days ago
SS
$200
Sal and Jan Santoro
1 month ago
DF
$100
Day Family
1 month ago
MF
$500
Martha Feltenstein
1 month ago
JC
$200
Jim & Ana Cokkinias
2 months ago
$25
Becky Gaines
2 months ago
JM
$250
Jaclyn Mischler
2 months ago

I hope this adorable puppy helps you on your road to recovery! My thoughts and prayers are with you!

EB
$50
Evan Baines
2 months ago
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