Make-a-Wish, Support Animals, and Kids
Within a few months of our daughter's cancer diagnosis, she came across a poster for Make a Wish and asked if she might be allowed to make a wish. We said yes, and Make-a-Wish has been such a wonderful blessing in our lives.
Any child with a life threatening illness may qualify for the program. The child's condition need not be terminal. A child is encouraged to make 2 wishes (a back up wish, should the first not be available, and I think usually there are two volunteers assigned to a Make-a-Wish child and their family.
If you are on the fence, call the foundation and see what they do. They are a wonderful group of volunteers and they really do neat things for these kids. K was so happy to make a wish (and even think about making a wish) at that point, because there was an incredible drudgery of painful procedures, things she had to do, and bad news from doctors. Make-a-Wish allowed us to
K wished for a puppy (a Pomchi puppy, after much research...these dogs are also hypoallergenic), and it is amazing how much that little sweet dog has lifted our spirits. Of course, a child is allowed to make a wish for anything (although they are warned some wishes may not be able to be granted, and one cannot wish for more wishes). Apparently 75% of kids wish to go to Disneyland or Disney World.
We were assigned 2 volunteers who met with us and also surprised us with little gifts and surprises throughout the "wish experience." K was able to have a puppy shopping spree at Petco and a puppy pizza party at her school.
Our puppy is always there to comfort her now and it has even been such a boost to everyone's spirits just to watch Teka's antics, walk the puppy and play with the puppy instead of just pouring over cancer reports or thinking about what the next tests will be. K had difficult blood access and the pain from multiple pokes, IVs, etc. has been the hardest for her. It has been so wonderful being able to take Teka along with her (though usually waiting in the car...only on cool days). Teka really has been able to help her endure everything with greater ease.
But we also wanted to post on this because we found out additional information and links that some of you may find helpful. Because of updates in federal guidelines regarding the definition of service dogs, cancer families benefit:
From the Federal Register On Service Dogs:
"The 1996 DOT guidance document defines a service animal as ‘‘any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If the animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.’’ This document refines DOT’s previous definition of service animal 2 by making it clear that animals that assist persons with disabilities by providing emotional support qualify as service animals and ensuring that, in situations concerning emotional support animals, the authority of airline personnel to require documentation of the individual’s disability and the medical necessity of the passenger traveling with the animal is understood."
The difference this makes is that a service dog can accompany a child into the hospital, on planes (without a pet fee because service animals are not considered pets), and in hotels or other settings that have a "no pets allowed" policy.
Not surprisingly, if parents bring a service animal with a "no pets" policy, they should be prepared to have documentation. We print a copy of the Federal Register document (with the relevant definition of service dogs highlighted), and have a copy of a document registering Teka as a service / emotional support dog from her veterinarian, as well as a prescription from one of her doctors that essentially says: "** suffers from a serious medical disorder that affects her quality of life and emotional health. I have prescribed a service dog to assist her." We also obtained appropriate patches from SitStay.com that identify her as a service dog and therapy dog. She already has a harness.
For other reading:
Assertive Cancer Patient Blog: The Cancer Dog