Bella is an 11-year old living with Morquio Syndrome, and George is her Great Dane service dog provided by Service Dog Project. This post is written by Bella’s mom Rachael.
We’d never considered a service dog for Bella before seeing a mobility dog in action. It was a long year of us driving to Service Dog Project in Ipswich, MA at least once a week to volunteer. Bella helped change waters, feed, brush, scoop poop, clean kennels, sweep, fluff fluffies and give pats with treats to many dogs over that year-long period.
With crutches there was no thinking involved. Bella could get up and dressed and then crutch to school or to a doctor’s appointment. No confusion. When you add a service dog into the mix it takes more planning. Is it always easy? Nope.
“Bella, did George go pee and poop this morning? Did George have breakfast? Do you have his vest and chain? Did he have 5 minutes to run? Do you have his coat if it’s cold?” It’s a lot to plan every time you leave the house. Then planning for the unexpected such as keeping a container in the car with water and food bowls, treats, and fluffies.
Does Bella always do 100% of his care? No, of course not but she does over 95% of his care. She will happily take him to the bathroom, feed him, brush him, scoop his poop, and of course keep treats nearby.
Would we change anything? No way. Seeing the improvements have been amazing. Bella is so much stronger. But when you have a service dog you have to remember this is a 24/7/365 day job. Bella doesn’t decide when she wants to use George or when she wants to use crutches. George doesn’t stay home alone. He is always with us, including overnights at the hospital.
Has it changed anything? Of course it has. Are their places we don’t go? Yup. Does it draw attention? Yes, at times Bella doesn’t feel like saying “Hi”. So before you think of getting a service dog, remember they require a lot of work. Even after you think they’re trained there’s always more they need. More learning, love, time and attention.
Are crutches easier? Yes, but we’ve adjusted our lives to include George and wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s not an option to give up on him and decide one day we don’t want to put forth the extra effort.
George gave Bella her life back so we’ll do whatever we can to make him happy! And look at that face, what’s not to love?
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