I met Jacque in early 2009. I had been searching for ‘my future service dog’ for more than 2 years. I had looked all over the country, including Hawaii. When I first applied I could only travel to a service dog organizations facility if it was in a warm state. That meant that half the year or more I could not accept a dog from Washington, Philadelphia and many other cold states. Traditional programs require that you be ready to accept a dog year round; so sadly I self-selected out of 50 plus service dog organizations.

As time went on it became apparent that a two-four week trip anywhere to accept my future service dog and receive training was just not feasible. I had the willingness and dedication but I had to undergo frequent medical treatments near home. Sometimes I needed weekly chemo or physical therapy. If I could not control the temperature in the training environment my disability would flare. I also lacked the stamina for a two-four week training trip. I was injured in an accident and needed multiple surgeries. I could commit to time every day to train my service dog but I needed to be based out of my home. This need to be home based eliminated all but one service dog organization (that I could find). This other organization seemed amazing but I had other concerns.

As I learned more and more about the different breeds used as service dogs I decided to try to find one that provided Doodles. Wow was that a tall order. Many organizations sang the praises of Doodles as successful service dogs on their web sites or literature but never seemed to actually be able to promise you a Doodle. In other words, I could find an organization that trained Doodles but since they did not have their own breeding programs they relied on the occasional Doodle donated from breeders like Jacque. I could apply and eventually be approved and matched with a dog but it may not be a Doodle.

Inside my own state, California, I looked for organizations that would provide me with a service dog. However, despite being approved because of my excellent references and paying all application fees I had made no progress in years. Some places said I was approved but I heard nothing. Some places said I would only be interviewed once they had a dog for me. I wondered how could they know me well enough to match me with a dog if they didn’t interview me. As time went on I became more and more frustrated with the waiting time, the lack of access to information and the impersonal communication style of some of these large organizations. I was frustrated.

You see, I am not in a wheelchair, my disability is entirely invisible and I can ‘pass’ for able-bodied easily. However, the reality is I have intermittent mobility problems, I can be critically ill quickly if the weather or room temperature changes and I may become visibly disabled in minutes. I felt poorly understood at many organizations.

All that changed when I met Jacque! Jacque listened to my situation and seemed to ‘get’ my circumstances. I sent her application materials and we talked again. In a few short weeks I had more communication and understanding than I had experienced in two plus years. Jacque asked me what I needed from a dog. She also asked what I could provide a dog. I told her what I could not do (travel) and she was not discouraged.

I explained how husband’s siblings stay with us regularly and have allergies. While Jacque made no firm promises about my future dog she was able to tell me that her husband was the reason she started breeding Doodles. He has severe allergies and has never been allergic to the Doodles! I was impressed with her knowledge of Doodles and breeding.

Then she began to match me with my dog. Because of my temperature needs she picked a dog who already had a tendency to hover on feet. She took an innate tendency and matched it to a need in me. My ability to pick my own service dog would not have been very good. She really took time to know me, my needs and what limitations I had. She matched me with Montana!

I fell in love with Montana via pictures. But when I first met him I truly understood Jacque’s ‘tag’ line where wagging tails meet smiling faces. I got to visit with Montana for 7 days in June 2009. Within the first hour he snuggled up against me! He had the opportunity to be with 4 people that first day but he stuck by me. He seemed to know how much I wanted and needed him!

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