Shepherdstown, W.Va. – Shepherd University sophomore Oli Pierce is raising money to be paired with a fully trained service dog.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Pierce and learn about ways a service dog would help them. Pierce explained that a service dog would assist them in living a more productive and independent life.
Pierce shared that during childhood and teenage years they have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions.
Pierce said these conditions make them unable to go places alone.
“I have a panic attack if I even have to walk down to the mailboxes in my neighborhood alone,” Pierce said. “So, I can’t really do anything like walking across campus to get to class. … I can’t walk across campus to events. I can’t walk to the Wellness Center on my own, and it really puts a wrench in day-to-day stuff because I can’t go anywhere or do anything without another person.”
Pierce explained that a service dog would help them by interrupting dissociative states, anxiety attacks, flashbacks and other symptoms.
“If I do have a panic attack while the dog is with me, the dog will be able to interrupt the attack, alert me before the attack happens, ground me while the attack is happening, perform deep pressure therapy, and create space between me and other people in public,” Pierce said.
Pierce further explained that a service dog would allow them to live by themselves, which currently they cannot do. Pierce said they are looking forward to not having to rely on family members for certain tasks once paired with a service dog.
“I’m not able to live alone currently without a service dog because I have attacks in my house and family members have to calm me down and deal with my attacks,” Pierce said. “ … [Having a service dog] would allow me to live alone and without other people, which is something I’m really looking forward to. I look forward to waking up on my own, taking medications on my own, going to sleep on my own without reminders – so, those are big things.”
Pierce also shared that they have been to four treatment centers over the past five years and found little success with therapeutic and medical treatments.
“[My family and I] just kind of realized that without a service dog I would be ending up in hospitals for the rest of my life because I wouldn’t have a steady treatment that was going to work and keep getting me up in the morning and keep me independent and reliable,” Pierce said. “So, we just kind of realized that I needed a more consistent treatment than just medications and twice-a-week therapy.”
Pierce is working with a small, nonprofit organization in Grantville, Pennsylvania, to be paired with a fully trained service dog.
Pierce has a goal of raising between $7,000 and $8,000. Pierce explained that it costs $5,000 to be paired with a dog, and an additional $2,000 to $3,000 for room and board during training camp.
Currently, Pierce has raised $1,700 on GoFundMe and $135 from selling T-shirts on Bonfire.
Pierce said they thought the T-shirts would be a fun way to raise money while bringing awareness to the importance of service dogs.
“I think that it’s really important that people know how important service dogs are, and I never see anything out there really that’s promoting service dogs or saying that service dogs are important,” Pierce said. “So, I thought that a really fun fundraising thing to do would be to design something that told people that service dogs are important.”
Pierce said they drew up the design on the T-shirt and a friend helped them digitalize it. The design is also available to be printed on a hoodie.