After doing the math, I spent $1,425.10 just on Levi and his food/gear/vet needs. He was rehomed for $500, so I took a personal loss of $925.10 in this situation, not including the costs of paying my private trainer for her work.
Now that Levi has washed out, I have to start over. Fortunately, I have a fantastic answer to the question of, “What next?”
To begin with, I began pursuing service dog programs again. I’d previously been rejected by 35 programs, and recent inquiries raised that number to 43 programs which didn’t work out. Of the new ones, either they didn’t take people with my disability, or they only accepted local applicants. After I investigated multiple organizations, two accepted me and a third seemed like they might accept me once I had my doctor fill out a portion of the application form and applied.
One of the programs which accepted me charges $12,500 to match me to a fully-trained SD, and the other price was $10,000 but I’d be working with a Labrador, a breed I’d rather not have. That’s about the amount of money I would be putting into a dog from my private trainer, except there would be no personal financial loss if another dog washed out from training like Levi did. They’d simply pull up the next available dog, and I’d be matched to a fully trained service dog in the end, period. Even with the steep price tags, a SD from an organization would likely be far cheaper overall.
Working with a SD program was my first choice, and I worked to move forward in that process until a far better option came along.
A friend through Facebook contacted me, offering to give me the GIFT of a service dog! After training her own dog to work for her, she felt pulled to offer the same thing to someone else. She picked me.
I’d be responsible for a far more minimal portion of the costs. Any SD-specific gear like the vest to wear in public, boots to protect paws, and a raincoat to avoid the wet dog smell everyone loves. Of course, the cost of traveling out of state for team training would fall to me, too. She would raise, feed, train, and care for this dog for the 18-24 months until he or she was ready to graduate, and during that time I contribute what I can toward major costs like food, vaccinations, and hip x-rays.
There was no question about it that I would say yes, and I did, with much enthusiasm!
Our next step is to find a good breeder who produces golden retriever puppies with calm, stable temperaments, health-tested parents (those hips are important!) AND is willing to donate a puppy to us.
Currently we are working through a list of reputable breeders.