A few weeks ago I published a blog lamenting my inability to move forward on several levels ("Getting Around", March 5). That was not a great place to be. Not only was I having car issues, but the severity of my vertigo had increased to an alarming degree causing me to fall on my butt a couple of times. I don't know how to fully express the horror of knowing you are going to fall, grabbing something you think will support you and having it slide out of your grip on the way down. My "safety line" failed.
I have an awesome service dog. He knows how to warn me and he knows how to brace, but if the equipment fails there's not much that either of us can do. I have a tough enough time leaving the house sometimes. Knowing that there's public face-plant potential is not encouraging or conducive to me getting out and about. I haven't been hurt physically (unless you count the monumental bruise on my behind) but it's scary to have no control and embarrassing to have no control in a public venue. Having people rush over to ask me if I'm okay is sweet, but somehow makes it worse. In my ideal world, I go about my business efficiently and under the radar. Knowing I can fall at any moment takes away my dignity and my option of privacy. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been there, maybe; but if you have I know you know exactly what I mean.
I didn't (and don't) have the time or resources to deal with being reminded that I am a "disabled" person. I have this life I need to be living, a book about to be published and things that I want to do, dammit. When I wrote that blog, I was feeling plopped right back into 'helpless' mode, and that is not at all a comfortable place to be. I've been a visitor, but I won't live there. At the same time, I noticed that more and more service dogs were sporting these fabulous, well-made and secure-looking harnesses. I thought to myself "THAT is what I need, right there". I checked them out and learned they came from a company called Service Dog Designs (a specialty division of Bold Lead Designs ). Then I looked at the price, and though they were clearly worth every penny and then some, I sort of gave up the idea that I could have one. Like many in my position, I don't have a lot of money. And then I fell again.
A friend described her experience with the harness, and I knew that it could be life-changing if only I could find a way. I know better than to give up, anyway. I went back to the site, printed off everything that was relevant to me, measured my dog and picked out all the options that would be perfect for us and then I did some brain-storming. While deep in the throes of mentally rearranging my finances (not easy considering the car trouble I was also experiencing) it occurred to me that I might want to call the company for some exact figures so I would know exactly what I was dealing with. At first I hesitated because some companies don't even want to hear your voice until you are ready to make a purchase. I don't want to be that person with no money who just wastes everybody's time speculating. That was the WRONG thing to believe.
I spoke with Katrina, the company owner and harness-maker extraordinaire. I thought that it was pretty amazing that not only did she speak to me personally, but she was polite and understanding. She knew I didn't have the money, but walked me through the process of creating an invoice, offering helpful and knowledgeable suggestions every step of the way. She never gave me any indication that she might be in a hurry, or that she was wasting her time on somebody who didn't have any money anyway. Her focus remained on what my needs were, and the best way to make that happen. It was so amazing to me that I was actually discussing what I needed FIRST, and how to pay for it second, that I think I even cried a little. The idea that I could have what I needed, that falling could be a thing of the past, was kind of a moving experience. Katrina emailed me the invoice and some funding suggestions. I got excited. Here were options, and I was ready to advocate for myself. The amazing part? It WORKED.
My harness is going to be shipped next week. If you had asked me in March if I have ever felt so hopeful about the possibilities for my future, I probably would have said "no" if I was answering honestly. Now I can get on with my life, and look forward to the things I have to look forward to! If you are a disabled person who is interested in this harness, don't just look at the cost and give up. Call Katrina, there IS a way. She is even willing to speak directly to potential funding sources. When it's an investment in yourself and your future, it's worth every penny.
This review is definitely going to have a part 2 when the harness arrives and we put it to good use. I normally would wait until after the product arrives to review it, but the experience with the company was so positive and helpful that I thought it was worthy of it's own review. I have no doubt that there are plenty of folks like me who's initial reaction was financially based, and I just wanted to try and help take that piece out of the decision making process. Define what you need, and then make it happen:-)