“The Best Therapist Has Fur and Four Legs,” My Service Dog Jackson!

If you are a dog person, you know that love from a dog is like nothing else! I never realized this until I met my service dog, Jackson, for the first time. I received Jackson from the Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence Program, which takes place at The Ability Center in Sylvania, Ohio. Having Jackson in my life has helped me become more independent and has been a tremendous help for me! Some of the tasks that Jackson helps me with are picking up items I have dropped, opening doors, opening the refrigerator, picking up the phone, and many other commands. My whole family has always been big animal people, and I’ve always had dogs growing up, so my grandmother had the idea to research different agencies in Ohio that train and work with service dogs, and that’s how we came across Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence.

Something that I don’t know if most people realize is how long it actually took me to receive Jackson. I had to go through various meetings with the agency and talk about my lifestyle and the things that I wanted a service dog to be able to help me with because everyone’s needs are different, and they wanted to be able to find a dog that could specifically meet my needs. I was paired up with multiple other dogs, but because they were not the right fit for me, I waited a while until I got Jackson. Also, when I first applied for the program, I was younger, and at first, because of my age, I was only eligible to get a therapy dog, but as my needs changed and I got older, I applied for a service dog. Therapy dogs also receive training; however, their job is completely different from a service dog, and a service dog has public access rights under the ADA while a therapy dog does not. My family and I also did fundraisers to help give donations to the agency with help from people in the community. All the fundraisers we did were a major success that we could not do without support from family members, friends, and members of the community, so thank you!

After that, I finally got paired up with my black lab Jackson! I remember going up to the facility for the first time to meet him. I was equally nervous and excited, and from that day forward, I knew my life would change for the better. For two weeks that summer, my grandparents and I got a hotel and went up to the facility to train with Jackson. Just like school the training was eight hours a day, but even though it was crucial information we still had fun! It was like stepping into new horizons for me. One thing I distinctly remember is being nervous whenever Jackson would lick my hand to solve this problem; the trainers put peanut butter on my hand every day and would have Jackson lick my hands until I got comfortable; that is one thing I’ll always remember! We worked together every day strengthening our bond and getting familiar with the commands that Jackson was trained with. I also got to meet other service dog users in my classes that were graduating with me, and I think it was really neat that we got to go through that experience together! I also got to meet Jackson’s foster families, who helped train him when he was a puppy since he was in training since he was a puppy! He was fully trained at the age of 2 yrs. old. While we were in training we went to a restaurant and a couple of different stores to see how Jackson was supposed to behave in that kind of situation and also for myself and my family to get familiar with when we are taking Jackson out in public. After two or three days of training, we got to take Jackson back to the hotel with us so he could be used to being around us, and we can be used to being around him!

From that moment on Jackson has been with me ever since! I got him in middle school, and he went all through my high school career with me; and when I graduated with my associate’s degree, the school even gave him a graduation cap and a T-shirt to wear when he walked across the stage with me on graduation day. He will also be with me as I continue my education and pursue my bachelor’s degree in social work. Jackson has always been a constant in my life, and that has become clearer to me in my college years because, for the first time, it is just Jackson and me. In my middle school and high school years, I have always had an aide that I could depend on and ask for help if I needed it. However, this is not the case in college, and it makes me even more grateful to have him there with me. When I graduated with my associate’s degree, my classmates decorated Jackson’s graduation cap with a quote that said, “The Best Therapist Has Fur and Four Legs,” and that’s something I think everyone who is a dog person can agree on!

Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence Website- https://abilitycenter.org/assistance-dogs/

4 responses to ““The Best Therapist Has Fur and Four Legs,” My Service Dog Jackson!”

  1. I loved it kelsi!! Love Jackson too!! Hes a very smart dog!! He makes all of us so happy! I love it that I’m the only one he barks at when I come home from work!!❤❤❤❤❤🐶🐕🐩


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