A B.C.-based organization that provides funding for people who need service dogs is putting out a desperate call for donations to get a canine into the home of a Chilliwack woman.
Epic Service Dogs, a registered non-profit organization in Victoria, is currently paying for the costs of Toby, a standard poodle who helps Sharon Lambert of Chilliwack.
Lambert suffers from mild brain damage, PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result of a 2009 car collision in Vancouver.
“I was running out into the road screaming at cars. I turned into a swearing machine which wasn’t like me at all,” Lambert recalled.
She’s on medication to help with her condition, but when she met Toby as a puppy a year and a half ago, she was introduced to a new kind of relief.
“Toby is something that’s non-medication that’s able to help me with my depression especially.”
He is owned by Vancouver Island K9 Consulting & Training (known as VI K9). Although the company is based in Victoria, Toby’s trainer is in Mission. He is still being trained and lives part time with Lambert for seven days at a time before going back to his trainer.
He’s a year and a half old and it will take three years to fully train him, which comes at a cost.
That’s where Epic Service Dogs comes in. Not only does Epic pay for the cost of training Toby, but they also help pay for his food, medical bills and items like the service harness he has to wear ($350 to $500).
Depending on what the dog is being trained for at VI K9, the price tag can range anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000 over the course of the three years of training. For Toby, it’s about $35,000.
Some people get funding for service dogs from the government or from organizations that specialize in that person’s disability (such as autism). In B.C., in order for someone with PTSD to qualify for government funding, that person has to be a first responder or in the military.
“I kind of fall through the cracks in that I’m not part of the military or a first responder,” Lambert said, which is why Epic is helping her.
But when COVID-19 hit, the funds coming in to Epic Service Dogs slowed right down.
To make things worse, the chair of Epic was in a motorcycle crash in November, making raising money and awareness for the organization even more difficult.
“It’s been blow after blow for us,” said Epic vice chair Tiffany Thomas.
Epic is actually in debt right now with VI K9, but she speaks highly of the owner, Tyson King, who’s also a veteran.
“He’s been so kind and been so patient, but patience runs out and I get that,” Thomas said. “We need help.”
Lambert has now set up a GoFundMe to “kick things into gear and pull at people’s heartstrings” at Christmastime.
She’s hoping people will donate money so Epic can pay VI K9 to continue to train Toby in order for him to be with Lambert every day.
“The hope was, as of Jan. 1, that we would have him full time. That would be the ideal plan,” Lambert said.
When Toby is not with her, it’s hard for Lambert to get out of bed.
One of the coping mechanisms she uses to deal with her condition is getting out, socializing and talking to people, but that’s not doable in the midst of a pandemic.
“Especially with COVID, I need Toby more than I had before. He gets me out walking and moving,” Lambert said. “The days I don’t have him, I find very dark and difficult.”
Lambert’s three kids see firsthand the positive effects Toby has on her when he’s around.
“They make comments like ‘Mom, you go grocery shopping more often whenever you have Toby,’ or ‘you’re out of bed more often and I can see you and spend more time with you,’” Lambert said.
The entire family loves having Toby around and Lambert is wishing for a Christmas miracle so she can have him full-time.
“I love the funny noises he makes when he sniffs you and I love cuddling up with him on the couch. He’s nice and warm, and comfortable and calming. He’s a very calming presence.”
To donate to the cause, go to gofundme.com/f/save-toby-the-service-dog. Additionally, people can drop cash into one of the coin tins located at: Bosley’s (18-6014 Vedder Rd.), Garrison Pharmacy (1-45555 Market Way), Cell Phones ‘n More (4-45575 Keith Wilson Rd.), and Merci Coffee Truck in Garrison.