Online Store is Open!

For those interested in purchasing their own custom print of “Hope Springs Eternal,” my Online Store is open with a selection of prints for you to choose from!! To choose a custom print, simply go to the on-line store, click to “Hope Print Line” and select your favorite from the variety of hand printed, no-two-are-alike prints.

If you wish to give above the suggested print amount, I have added a Donations selection so you can do so at the same time. Unfortunately, the software I am using for donations doesn’t allow individuals to choose a variable donation amount, so currently donation values may be made in any quantity of $5, $25 or $100.  Thank you again for any amount you choose to donate, your support means more to me than you could ever imagine.  Again, a tax-deductible receipt will be given for any donation over the cost of the print.

Though the shopping-cart software is wonderful, there are still a few glitches to iron out. For one, I am not given an email address on order. Since I would like to keep people informed on the shipping process and timeline, please send me an email via my Contact page, noting your name and email address, and I will be sure to send you updates on your order.

Excitingly enough, I did get my first online purchase! It went smoothly and I noted purchaser’s mailing address seemed to be about 4 blocks from my house. Being that her home was so close to mine, I decided to hand deliver her print, while testing out my phone GPS for the very first time. In getting a phone with GPS capabilities, my hope was that it would give me the freedom to walk alone safely, allowing me to gain some of the independence I had with Hope back again. My past “track record” for independent walks has not been very successful.

My Aide and I ventured out, following the directions indicated on the GPS. The route zigzaged back and forth, hitting every single major hill in the neighborhood. Then it stopped!  It had enough, and wasn’t going to go anymore. We were definitely much farther than four blocks from my apartment, but seemingly nowhere near where near the final destination we were trying to reach!

My Aide then tried her Android’s GPS and it led us further down the windy roads. Suddenly I actually recognized a picket fence and tree–one of the landmarks my walking partner Cherrie and I have been working on so I can get to her house! I knew where we were and my GPS didn’t!  The GPS led us down the next road to Cherrie’s house and we took the right at the horse sculptures (another landmark) and I spotted the red door on Cherrie’s house! Of course we weren’t in search of Cherrie’s house, and the GPS led us on…right into a dead end. Apparently even the newest GPS on the market can’t navigate in my neighborhood.

Because of my landmark practice, the trip was not completely futile. I said ‘hi’ to Adda my canine walking buddy and left the print with her so her mother could deliver it to the un-plotted house. Adda was terribly disappointed to learn she was being left in her kennel and not going on a fun outing with me.

Amazingly, due to my landmarks I was able to find my way back home without my broken GPS. While it is great that I was able to recognize landmarks, which is still an incredibly difficult thing for me due to my sensory processing difficulties, I was disappointed GPS was not a bigger help on this trip.

In the past, with Hope as my guide, I could wander to my hearts content and she could always somehow find our way back home. She was much better than a GPS. With this beautiful sunshine I’ve been wanting to go out for long, glorious walks, but find myself simply staring out my window missing her…

Why fundraising… I thought all service dogs were free?

People ask why I have to fund-raise for my service dog. Many believe all Assistance Dogs are provided free of charge. It is true most guide dog programs do not charge for guide dogs, nor does Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)–the longest established service dog program. However, most other programs require clients to actively contribute to the cost of their partner’s training and care.

Did you know it costs over $30,000 to train and place an Assistance Dog? That is a minimum of 300 hours of training; and two years of food, medical and kennel care. This cost is offset by volunteers and donors, but smaller emerging programs just don’t have the same donor/grant base as the guide programs or CCI. For example, Dean Koontz actively promotes and donates book royalties to CCI. Obviously that affects their funding pool.

So why not CCI? CCI is a great program. They do a lot for the service dog community as a whole. Unfortunately, they do not train for neurological disabilities. They specialize in wheelchair assist and they are excellent at it! It makes sense. All the dogs are trained with the same general tasks, bred for the same purpose and evaluated on the same criteria (of course personalities and strengths are matched). It allows them to serve a greater population, but also puts limitations on special needs/multiple disabilities/more complex tasks.

The founder of CCI, Bonnie Bergin, knew many others could benefit from a service dog. CCI couldn’t take all applicants and people like me actually benefit from smaller, more intimate programs. Bergin founded the University of Canine Studies specifically to teach others to train service dogs and start their own programs.

That is how my program, Brigadoon Service Dogs, started six years ago. As a small program, they aim to work closely with their clients from the time an application is submitted. They provide a custom match and personalized tasks along with individualized team training. Because of this, there is a good chance I will actively work and bond with my prospective match from the beginning!

Brigadoon would love to provide Assistance Dogs free of charge, but at this time that is not possible. My goal is to fund-raise $7500 contributing to the cost. If all 200 prints are sold at $25, I meet $5000 of that goal. A similar original print usually costs twice that amount, but I feel HOPE should be affordable to all. I hope those who can contribute more will do so. My online store offers both prints and an option to contribute beyond the suggested donation. Remember to check with your employer to see if they will match your charitable donations!

I am thankful Karl’s Kids, Inc. volunteered to help facilitate my fundraising through their ADAP project. Their technical support allows me to blog with training wheels! Further, donors can rest assured their donations will be kept safe, designated specifically to my needed service dog. At times the inevitable happens and no match is found. Because charitable donations are not refundable, any donation directly to that program stay with the program even if I must find a different route. It’s rare, but it happens.  By using Karl’s Kids and ADAP to facilitate my fundraising project, I am able to ensure that even if Brigadoon Service Dogs is unable to find a suitable service dog match for me, funds donated towards my service dog will still in the end go towards that cause and not stay with an organization who is not able to service my need.

This journey sounds daunting, but I am optimistic… it is, after all, driven by HOPE.

But You Don’t Look Disabled!

People tend to wonder exactly why I need a service dog. That is a valid question. I am not in a wheelchair. I am not blind, nor am I deaf. So how can a dog exactly help me? The legal definition of a service dog is:

any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

I have a neurological disability that includes sensory processing disorder. Basically my brain is lacking filters so it is always in overdrive with all those white noises, sights, smells, textures the typical person never even notices. My brain doesn’t make the correct connections or responses between my body, ears, eyes, and so-forth. This also triggers seizures which is a safety concern in itself.

The best description of my life I’ve found is to imagine yourself in a foreign world with a different sense of gravity (my vestibular system is screwed up), a foreign language, flooded with foreign sights and sounds and smells. You are expected to figure out how to make your way without a guide, map, or other information. I live in that constant disorientation.

For me a service dog is a tour guide in this foreign world.

  • He will be trained in guide tasks (like a guide dog for the blind) to assist with my navigation and visual-spacial processing issues. This will include obstacle avoidance, stopping at corners, finding doors/cars, memorizing standard routes, finding people and on command trailing a designated individual so I don’t get lost.
  • He will be trained in hearing tasks like fire alarm response (and leading me to the door) and alerting to timers/buzzers because I really struggle with noticing and responding over all the noise already flooding me. He will lead me to those alarms.
  • He will be trained in seizure/emergency response. I have a lifeline button that he will be trained to push when I am at home or retrieve the phone. Hope alerted to my seizures, but that is innate and never guaranteed.
  • He will also be trained in signaling behavior. Because this world is so overwhelming I will freeze up, melt down, go into overload. The dog can be trained to notice those small body signs that things are becoming ‘too much’ before I completely melt. Just a simple nudge will help me re-orient and cue into myself and the world. Miss Hope picked up these small signs amazingly sooner than myself or anyone with me does. Having her decreased my meltdowns and increases ability to function especially in comparison to where I am now.

So that’s mostly it! Basically having a service dog means safety and independence.

When I lost Hope, this is what I lost. Now I am trying to find it again!

 

Hope Springs Eternal

Featured

In 2003 HOPE entered my life…

…in the form of a vivacious, loving, and faithful golden retriever.

Hope was trained to assist with my neurological disability. She became my partner, helper, best friend, and constant companion. Working fluidly as a team; she led–I followed. I asked–she responded. She became an extension of me, an intricate part of my ability to function.

With Hope by my side doors began to open. I discovered my life passion–art. With her assistance I was able to attend classes, engage in the arts community, successfully show my work, and discover my true style. Hope of a bigger, better life grew in me.

In 2010, cancer took my Hope and left me searching for a new partner to help me on this journey. In remembrance of HOPE this linocut is hand-carved in her image and individually printed in my own unique style–no two prints are identical! 100% of the proceeds will go directly to my service dog fund so that…

HOPE can truly Spring Eternal!

Jessica Thompson, 2011
200 limited edition prints
4.5×6″ on 8×11″ high quality printmaking paper

Suggested Donation: $25 (S&H $3)
(Anything over $25 is tax deductible)

Visit my Online Store to order your own unique print!