OUR SERVICE DOG STORY
Hello all, we would like to take a minute of your time to introduce ourselves and explain why we have such a deep passion for service dogs and those whom they serve. Several years ago, and largely due to our own experience with family medical issues and the journey that has led us through, we decided to start Valley Service Dogs, a training school for working service dogs. This, in an effort to help other families, like ours, that have found themselves at a place where a service dog can represent the last best hope for a more normal and independent life. As we say, we are here to help you, 4 paws at a time.
Our first child, Jackie, was born a healthy and beautiful girl. When she was nine-months old, she began to have about 100 seizures per day and the tail spin began for Jackie and our family. Over the course of the next 18 years we, like many of you, tried everything: a seemingly unending combination of medications, diets and even a vagus nerve stimulator implant, all with little or no help. We even pursued brain surgery, which was ruled out early on in her life due to a lack of an identifiable focal point. Luckily when she reached her teens, her seizures did subside substantially from 100 per day to about 40 per month, which helped her medically, but still made a normal independent life all but impossible.
Throughout this time, Jackie struggled socially, largely due to her missing so much school due to her seizure activity, time spent in hospitals and the medications that she required to minimize the seizure activity. In an effort to improve her quality of life and provide her with some sense of normalcy and independence, we tried to find a service dog facility that would provide her with a service dog, only to find out that she was either too young (at the time), or that it would take many years for her to receive one due to a lack of available and trained service dogs.
When Jacqueline was 19, we found out that they had finally found an abnormality on her MRI, and that it was located in an area that could allow for brain surgery and removal of the affected area, a procedure that had a fairly high success rate in stopping all seizure activity. After about one more year of testing, the 10-day procedure was done. Once again, the dream of a cure was dangled in front of us and our hopes were very high. On the third day after her surgery to remove the abnormality, and while still in the hospital, she had a status seizure and our hopes vanished. We took her home shortly thereafter, and continued to live our lives as before, with just a little more bitterness infused, not really understanding how this miracle could have been placed before us only to have it ripped out of our hands. However, over the course of the next several months we came to realize that she was only having seizures while asleep, and a few awake, which in fact was a major improvement over her previous situation where she would have seizures at any time, awake or asleep. Certainly not a cure, but a step in the right direction.
About this same time, we came across a service dog facility that had a dog available for our daughter in San Diego. During the time that we were waiting for that dog to finish its specific training (seizure alert and response), Jackie and Sophia (Jackie’s mother) began volunteering regularly at this service dog training facility. After many hours of volunteer work in the facility, they found that they had a love for it and were very good at it. This led to them both taking and completing a service dog training program and receiving their Master Service Dog Training Certificates. Since that time, both have trained service dogs that are out and successfully serving their recipient in the community.
Additionally, and because Jackie’s first service dog didn’t work out (that happens), we ended up training Jackie’s current service dog (Winston) ourselves. Winston has made an incredible difference in our lives and has provided Jackie with the tools and emotional support she needs to live a more normal and independent life. In addition, we also ended up donating our family dog, Walley, to a young girl in New Jersey that had a similar story to Jackie. Having been around the training so much and being such a good and well trained dog, it took a few months to teach Walley the specific tasks she would require to help this young child and she headed off to New Jersey with this wonderful family. Walley and her recipient are doing a wonderful job and we are all very proud of them both.
So, why are we so passionate about service dogs and those they serve, and what sets us apart from other service dog providers? The answer to both of those questions is the same: because we’ve been there and understand the road that has led you here; because we are service dog recipients ourselves and have been through that process from the recipient’s side; because we are very good at what we do; and, we have a profound understanding that a service dog may be the last best hope for a more normal and independent life for you or a loved one and we know firsthand the amazing difference a service dog can make in the life of a recipient and their family.
Just as a side note to wrap up the story, Jackie is now 26, training service dogs, and her and Winston are living a wonderful and happy life.
Office Hours: Mon-Fri 9am - 5pm
Closed Saturday & Sunday