Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services trains dogs to assist people with disabilities to live a more independent life. But the training comes with a fairly substantial cost. One University of South Carolina student however raised enough money to get his best friend.
USC freshman Jory Fleming has autism and that means challenges for him in social situations, coping with people and new events. Fleming has a Palmetto Animal Assisted Life service dog named Daisy who helps him overcome social anxiety by being a social bridge.
“So I think um just having Daisy in general enable me to uh meet more people than I would have otherwise", said Fleming.
Daisy is trained to put pressure on Jory's pressure points to help him relieve his anxiety.
“Um a lot of times with autism and, stressful social environment you kind of feel like your maybe losing control a little bit. So having that pressure is something you can feel that's very real sort of I guess it's easy to focus on and disregard the other things that are going on”, said Fleming.
Fleming also has Cerebral Palsy and a rare genetic metabolic disease. Both cause muscle weakness and fatigue.
He also has to wear a stomach tube that provides lifesaving medicine he carries in his backpack at all time.
Daisy retrieves objects, open doors, assist him out of his chair or desk when he is feeling weak and alerts him if his stomach tube bends or twists.
But it takes two years to train a dog and it does not come cheap. The PAALS website says, the average cost to breed, raise, train, certify, and place one service dog is $25,000.
Mary Clair works with PAALS and she says donations pay for a lot of the training.
“What we do is we charge a $5,000 tuition fee for our team training, because we are a non-profit we're lucky enough to not have to charge them that much for a dog”, said Clair.
Fleming however managed to raise a little over $5,000.
“What I did was I went around to everybody that I knew basically, personally, and, you know, explained that, you know, that I was going off to college and that I really you know was looking into a service dog to sort of help me to be more independent with my disabilities", said Fleming.
Cocky's Canine PAALS is a USC club that provides student volunteers that help people with assistance dogs.
“And they go in for like shifts for different days of the week, different times, different students will go out and volunteer and just assist PAALS with the dogs and whatever they need really”, said Fleming.
The club also raise money for PAALS.
Muriel Lee is the president of Cocky's Canines and she says there is a great demand for more service dogs.
“In just the last year or year two, PAALS has seen a huge increase in demand for service dogs for, actually, veterans, like um veterans with PTSD”, said Lee.
PAALS is the only assistance dog program in South Carolina.
PAALS provided five service dogs last year. That's about the limit because of limited space and funding. They have four people on the waiting list and about twenty-five applicants on hold.
They are however planning to build a bigger building.
For more information on becoming a client or volunteering, visit PAALS.org.