The other day I was feeling a little bit stressed out and anxious at work when I felt a furry body roll over onto my foot and I looked down to see Bella start sleep yipping (it’s quite humorous). The thing is, the moment she made contact I could feel my heart rate slowing down a bit and I remembered that really I love my job and the stress isn’t that bad. It got me to thinking how lucky I am to have the opportunity to have Bella when I realized I haven’t shared how I found her yet. In all honesty it is pretty awesome and in a way not what you would expect. Because in the end, I didn’t pick Bella, She picked me.
The process of finding a service dog is not an easy task. There are a lot of steps and a lot of things that need to be researched. I started by doing what any person from my generation would do when they need information, I scoured the Internet.
From what I could gather, the first step was to talk to your doctors. So, I printed off a ton of information and went in to my doctors, of my team of 4 I needed at least 1 maybe 2 to approve the use of a service dog for my treatment. My doctors really didn’t have experience with service dogs in the past but they told me to try it.
With a prescription and recommendation from my doctor, I began the search for a service dog trainer and company. This part had me panicking with an overload of information. There are a lot of big company’s, but there are also few choices. Most of the big companies are in bigger areas and have long wait lists and huge bills.
Luckily I came across a site called Pet Partners. From there I was able to narrow down my search to companies that worked with South Dakota. I called companies, crossed companies off my list, called companies back, crossed more off my list and continued until I had about 3 groups left that I was interested in working with. With my search narrowed down, I began setting up meetings. While two of the groups had long wait lists, one trainer said she had a dog that might be a match for me. I was beyond excited and nervous. So after planning a trip out to Rapid City, SD and then having to reschedule due to a snowstorm, I was on my way to finding hope.
The day we got up to Rapid, I was a wreck. All I kept thinking was what if this doesn’t work and what if I got my hopes up for nothing. Thank goodness my parents traveled with me because I don’t think I could have made it on my own. After 5 long hours in the car we made it to “The Animal Psychology Center”
Once arriving, the process began. First, I met with Katherine the trainer who owns the place and works with all the dogs. After she got a feel for me, we began looking and talking about dogs. I really wanted a bigger dog that could be trained to help with my dizzy spells. With this in mind Katherine started bringing out different dogs.
This is where the story starts getting interesting. She brought out a dog named Gemma that was the one she originally had in mind for me. Then I met two little rambunctious yellow lab puppies. Then I met another dog I don’t remember well because this energetic goofy yellow lab mom was brought out. Next thing I knew, the yellow lab puppies had been picked up by the scruff of their neck so their mother could join in the excitement.
It’s odd to say Bella picked me, but she really did. She walked up to me and kept trying to get my attention. She sat on my feet, she nudged my hands, she nudged me behind the knee, and she looked at me like she knew. Yes, I know that sounds crazy but ask my parents. I still wanted to make sure so I took two dogs on one on one walks. The first one was Bella. She just made me happy, we walked down the street, we sat on a sidewalk and I think I knew then. I took the other dog for a walk first but the whole time I was gone, my parents said Bella kept looking for me.
When it was decided that Bella was mine, our first picture just captures the moment perfectly, I knew I was starting a journey that would change my life and this yellow fur monster was ready for the task. We signed the papers but had to leave Bella over night. Katherine said that every time someone walked in Bella kept looking for me. The next morning when we picked her up she came right out and was like okay! Lets go! Even from the beginning we had a bond and since then it has only grown stronger.
As I am writing this, I am filled with joy just thinking about it. I don’t know if I can fully express just how Bella had changed my life, but hopefully this can bring you just a small view of how much say the service dog has in finding their partner.
I would just like to add a huge thank you to both my parents for encouraging this process, and to Katherine for training and raising this amazing dog that is now such a huge part of my life. Thank you