It was a daunting task simply because, as much as possible, I really wanted it to be Tess's wish. Not mine. Not Charlie's. And not Blake and Ellie's (sorry girls-no caribbean vacay for you!)
I also wanted her to ultimately make the choice for herself so, before the wish granters came to visit us, I had already spoken with them and told them what to bring for options for Tessie. We were so excited when her wish granters arrived with a basket of goodies and the official Make A Wish certificate! Then it was time to officially make a wish. The first option was a trip to Orlando, Florida to go to the Nickelodeon Studios and see Spongebob in person (her infatuation with Toy Story 2 had not yet taken hold and she was a total Spongebob girl) and possibly swim with the dolphins, or, option two: get her a seizure alert dog so we could all have some peace of mind, and she could have a very best friend that was all hers. Someone who could be with her through the good times and the bad and just love her up whenever and wherever she needed it.
The wish granters came prepared with photos. One of a couple of gorgeous service dogs, and one with Spongebob. Of course, we couldn't be sure she fully understood what was being asked of her, but she repeatedly chose the photo of the dogs after being asked, "Would you rather go see Spongebob or get a doggie to play with?".
Personally, I was thrilled with her choice. So were the wish granters. And as it turned out, it was a very good thing they were so thrilled because we ended up needing their support to get the wish granted because of the cost. The cost of which I had no idea when asking, would be so much.
As in, it was three times the cost of the usual wish granted. THREE TIMES. Yikes! When I got the call telling me that we may have to go with the other wish we had been thinking of, I immediately agreed and told them that I would have never asked to begin with if I had known how much it would end up costing. But Tess's wish granters weren't ready to give up. They, with our local Make A Wish chapter went to the State chapter on Tess's behalf, who in turn, went to Make A Wish's National Board to get the necessary support for this wish. We were feeling the love, let me tell you!
It took quite a while to get the approval but in the end, boy did they support us. They called to tell us that they loved the idea of a service dog as a wish and really wanted Tess to be able to have it granted. Right down to paying for all expenses involved with our trip, including a nearly two week stay to Ohio where we'll train with the dog, as well as paying for any and all dog related expenses for the first year. From vet check ups to dog food to toys and bedding. Everything. I cannot tell you how amazingly awesome the support from Make A Wish has been to see this wish come true for Tess.
Due to the money needed and extensive research to find a place that would allow someone with the level of disabilities that Tess has to get a service dog, this wish has taken an unusually long amount of time to fulfill. The usual wait is six months. For us, it will have been nearly three years from the time the wish was granted to when Tess gets her new furry best friend. And I just know that the wait will have been worth it.
We are slated to be in the January Class at 4Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio. We will train for ten days with Tess's dog and at the end of that time, if we (both the dog and us) pass the test, we get to bring the dog home with us.
It is amazing what 4Paws is training the dog to be able to do in order to help Tess above and beyond the seizure alerting. The dog will be trained to get Tess's "seizure emergency bag" and bring me the phone when she is having a seizure. It will be trained to pick up toys that Tess drops and "give" them back to her. To press the handicapped door buttons (on buildings that have them) so the door will open for us without me having to try to lean around her wheelchair to try to get at it. To help her when she is sad by giving "loves" and "kisses". To lay beside and comfort her when she is in the hospital. To be her one"constant" in a world that is often filled with uncertainty.
As for me, I am praying that Tessie and her dog bond. That they become buddies. Pals. Besties. Every person should get to have a best friend and I cannot think of a little girl who is more deserving of one. Who has more love to give than The Toots?!
I am so grateful to 4Paws and Make A Wish for giving my Toodle Bug that opportunity.
4Paws January Class of 2014, here we come!
*images grabbed from Google Images*