Help James Watkins live a fuller life with a Service Dog

For: James Watkins
Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
Organizer: Amy Watkins
$26,993
of $25,000 goal
100% Complete
Raised by 206 donors

The Story

James is our amazing little 6 year old boy.
James was born with Down Syndrome and later diagnosed with Autism.
James has survived two open heart surgeries.
He's a fighter!

James loves going to the park. He loves his many professional caregivers. He loves strumming his Daddy's guitar but he mostly loves his Mom and Dad and his four older siblings.

James seems to have a profound connection with animals in general and with dogs specifically. James' Autism makes it hard for him to interact socially with people. He also has a hard time recognizing the things that could hurt him; things like moving cars and hot stoves.
He suffers a fair amount of discomfort due to his hip joints constantly popping in and out. He also has a very irregular sleep pattern and it's not unusual for him to be banging on his bedroom door at 3:00 in the morning.

These are ALL things we believe a trained and certified Service Dog could help James with. Unfortunately the subsidized groups that train and supply these amazing dogs have stopped taking applications. Best case scenario is that applications would open up again and James would be put on a 5 year wait list.

So, we are seeking your help to pay for a fully certified and locally trained Service Dog through Assistance Service Dogs BC Association.

This dog would do more than just provide service to James. It would be a life-companion and reassuring friend for him. This dog would be loved and cared for as a true member of our family. It would help James sleep, help to ease his pain, help his confidence, and help him to feel a greater sense of purpose.

Thank you.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on June 24, 2017

UpdateImage

Posted on June 24, 2017

WE HAVE A DOG!!!!!!!

Hi again everybody. 

So, this week was full of learning and full of surprises! 

The plan was for Amy and I to attend a weeklong training session for us and the dog, and to find out which dog we were getting, and then to take the dog home at the end of the week.
Well the trainers at Assistance Service Dogs BC had a different plan. At the end of day 1 they announced who was getting each of the three dogs and they said they would like for us to take the dogs home that afternoon.
Whaaaaat?

We didn't even have food for the dog. We were not mentally ready just yet. But of course we all took our dogs home Monday night. This was a huge thrill and really set the tone for the rest of the week. Needless to say, James was over the moon! We made a stop at the pet store and set ourselves up for the night.

The training was a real eye opener for us...and it had more to do with attitude than anything else. While our dog will be sort of a social conduit for James, she is far more than a family pet. Her training will be in our hands and it will require daily attention. We've all fallen in love with her, but we need to be vigilant in how we treat her. Our expectations of her must be clear and consistent. Her rewards must be timely. 

We did five mornings of theory and practise. We also shared two evening classes with another group of dogs and owners who were there for basic obedience. The difference was that our service dogs already knew all the lessons. They basically had to teach us how to ask for specific behaviours.

Andy and Marie run the business. Andy is confident, thoughtful and well-spoken. He commands obedience with a calm and balanced demeanour. He barely opens his mouth to speak and it's as if the dogs are waiting for his command. Marie has a newborn baby and young kids to care for, yet she treated all of us with kindness and hospitality. 
Melissa and Elyssa are two top notch trainers. They work in conjunction with Andy and take over when it comes to lesson time. They also spend a lot of time caring for dogs-in-training in their own homes. It is obvious to anyone that they love what they do and they have a deep love and respect for the dogs and the business. I think they both feel a little sad at seeing their "babies" leave the nest.
We also spent a little bit of time with James, another trainer. That guy smiles all day long and is very helpful and encouraging to all the dog owners and handlers.
Overall our experience was incredible! Anyone who owns a dog should enroll with them. They do the Service Dog thing but they also have a business called Obedience Unleashed which is geared toward all dog owners. 

Soooooooo......our dog!

Her name is Ava. We gave her the middle name Joy. 
I think we are so fortunate to have her. She is calm and mellow. She likes to lay down when not walking or working. James is in her face and she just puts up with it. We need to work on that with him. 
She's absolutely beautiful. Her eyes are deep and she'll look straight at you like she knows what you're thinking. There's a certain nobility about her.
She really listens to Amy and that's a credit to Amy. She has fallen into this whole dog ownership thing like a natural. 
Today we took Ava to get tags and to register her. In roughly 6 weeks we'll go for the public access test. Ava will pass with no issues. 

So, this is it. We have Ava at home. She is ours and she will work closely with James for the rest of her working life.

One more time, thank you!!!! to all of you. We could not have gotten to this place without the help of all of you. That is a fact! We started all of this in February and here we are, only 4 months later with an incredible companion for James, fully paid for by all of you. We hope to see you out and about with our James and our Ava. 

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Sean and Amy.

PS, there's a little more video in the gallery section

Posted on May 28, 2017

Posted on May 28, 2017

We have a date!!!

Hey everybody! 
Well....reality is setting in. The thrill and excitement of fundraising has subsided and the reality of the costs and responsibilities of owning a dog are setting in. 
Of course that means a whole new kind of excitement is rapidly building. Most of the excitement is for James but I'd be lying if I said we weren't sharing in some of that for ourselves.

We've had two meetings with the dogs so far. Nita and Lucy and Ava are all beautiful creatures who offer so much affection. It's hard to describe the effect they had on me personally. I know dog-lovers will know what I'm talking about.  The moment we met the dogs I felt a sense of calm. I felt my stresses and burdens just slip away. Maybe I need a Service Dog of my own haha.
Honestly, unconditional love is such a rarity, but it seemed like that's what these dogs were willing to offer.

Ok, enough of the corniness. Amy and I have had discussions about which dog we liked best; which dog seemed the best fit. We've stopped ourselves from becoming too attached to one or the other. But we know that when the moment comes, that dog will have our hearts. And we will have hers. We don't know which dog James will get but ...we have a date!!!

I'I've taken vacation in mid June so that Amy and I can attend a week of training with our new dog. The last day of our training is June 24 and that is the day we will take our new dog home to James!

Once again, we owe this all to you. All of you helped in some way. Some people helped by donating money. Others helped by sharing our story with their friends. Others helped just by listening and encouraging us to continue. Some of you performed life-changing acts of kindness that we will never forget. 
Thank you all. 
James doesn't understand what's about to happen. I can't wait for the first morning he wakes up and realized the dog is still here. Chills.

Posted on May 7, 2017

Posted on May 7, 2017

Hi everyone. 

I tried to post a video here last week but this site was in the middle of switching from FB to YouTube for their video access.
Anyway, for all those contributors who haven't seen it on FB, here is a short video of James visiting some of his buddies at Assistance Service Dogs BC.

James with Service Dogs "in-training".

The video is also in the gallery section of this page.
James will get to see them again in a couple weeks! 

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