If you are fortunate enough to live life with few health issues beyond the occasional cold or pulled muscle, it’s difficult to understand how close you are to losing all independence due to an unforeseen illness or injury.
For millions of people with significant health problems, the simplest tasks are ordeals. Every step, every movement, every choice must be considered with the utmost care and caution.
Imagine if walking from your bedroom to the kitchen were a potentially life threatening journey.
If basics such as brushing your teeth could result in suffering a seizure, falling and suffering broken bones or a massive head injury, then you are a prisoner of your own body and reliant on others for almost everything you do.
Imagine what kind of life that must be like.
For many people, a service dog is the link to living a better, safer, more independent life.
That’s where Amazing Tails, LLC comes in.
Since 1999, Amazing Tails has been identifying and training dogs that perform life saving services for their human partners.
These dogs help people walk with stability. They open doors for people using wheelchairs. They warn those with hearing problems that fire alarms are wailing. They alert those who suffer from seizures that one is coming, minutes before it does.
They bring independence and security to people’s lives in a way that nothing else can.
Amazing Tails does this at a minimum of cost for those who need help the most, but who can usually afford it the least. These amazing animals are expensive, costing more than $10,000 per dog, including identification, extensive customized training and top care.
What follows are three of millions of examples of what people are experiencing in their lives every minute of every day. An Amazing Tails-trained service dog would bring independence and safety to the lives of these good folks and so many like them.
We hope you can donate any amount you can. Thank you.
“We Had Never Seen Her So Free”
Some people are born with seemingly three strikes against them. Jubilee Schmid is one of those people.
Jubilee was born an orphaned female in China with enormous health problems. There are few scenarios in this world with worse prospects for the future.
But Jubilee was lucky because Erika Schmid and her husband Peter adopted her when she was five-years old. When she arrived at her new home in the United States, Jubilee was the size of an 18-month-old. Her health problems were bad, but they were about to get far worse.
“We thought she just had a club foot,” said Erika, a mother of five living in Howe’s Cave, a small mountain town in New York. “But we found out it was far worse than that, it was neurological.”
Since that diagnosis nine years ago, Jubilee has had numerous spinal cord surgeries, amputations of her right ankle and knee, major reconstructive surgery on her right leg and hip dysplasia and other problems with her left leg.
The youngest of five Schmid children, Jubilee has watched her siblings live active lifestyles, while she is a high fall risk trapped by her physical limitations.
“While her body is so damaged, her brain is that of a normal kid of her age,” Erika said. “We have always wanted her to enjoy some of the freedom and fun her siblings have had, so we started looking into service dogs.”
It was about a year ago when she found Amazing Tails.
“The folks at Amazing Tails made us feel incredibly at home,” she said.
Then came the moment when Jubilee first tried to walk with a service dog. The result was a moment Erika will never forget.
“It was the first time she was able to walk on her own,” Erika said while choking back tears. “She was also able to walk up and down a flight of stairs by herself for the first time. We couldn’t believe a dog could be trained to help this way. We had never seen her so free.”
With such a large family, the Schmids cannot afford the cost of a service dog on their own. The family is not destitute, but they have started raising money in many ways including a music fundraiser with their oldest daughter, who is a concert pianist.
“We have strong ties in our community and will be starting to raise money this summer,” Erika said. “Anything we raise beyond what we need will be donated to Amazing Tails, so others may be helped the way we are.”
Like many, the Schmids are on a waiting list, waiting for Amazing Tails to identify the right dog. At that point, it will take about a year of training.
“Jubilee is so happy and excited for the future,” she said. “We can’t wait to see what she can accomplish with the help of her service dog.”
Jubilee’s excitement is infectious. You can help Amazing Tails by donating what you can here at YouCaring.
“I Feel Trapped in the House Most of the Time”
Jen Bye had a really good life in Los Angeles. She had a great job in the building industry, was a musician with lots of gigs and married a good man who loves her.
That’s when health problems intervened, completely changing her life, making the smallest tasks difficult and potentially dangerous.
Now living with her husband in Lake Arrowhead, a mountain community about 90 minutes outside Los Angeles, Jennifer said a PTSD/anxiety disorder from a childhood experience began to take over about a decade ago.
Then she started suffering from a migraine disease and fibromyalgia, a mysterious autoimmune disease that impacts people in many debilitating ways.
Then things got worse.
“I got laid off in 2010 from my job when the economy was bad, so I started working part time as a trail guide and a working musician,” she said.
Then Jen developed an extremely painful case of degenerative arthritis in her right knee and hip, severely limiting her mobility.
“I couldn’t continue,” she said. “Now I am waiting on my government disability to come through and have gone back to school to study sociology and psychology. I want so much to get back to work.”
But the approval of disability benefits can take forever to wind through the federal bureaucracy. As she has been waiting, things got still worse when Jen got into a head-on car collision in 2015.
“That exacerbated everything,” she said. “The PTSD got worse, as did the migraines and my arthritis. It got to the point where I couldn’t get around. I sometimes have to crawl up and down my stairs on bad days. It becomes almost impossible to get around. I feel trapped in my house most of the time.”
She said winter is the most difficult time of year, making the aches and pains even worse.
Then a friend with Parkinson’s disease got a service dog and Jennifer saw it transform her friend’s life.
“It was remarkable,” she said. “I knew a service dog would make a big difference for me, so I started researching it.”
She found that most organizations charge around $20,000 and it can take two-plus years to get a service dog.
“When I discovered Amazing Tails, I found out that it cost half that much and took half the time,” she said.
So now Jen is waiting for Amazing Tails to find the right dog for her, and she’s also hoping her disability insurance kicks in, allowing her to afford the cost.
She has been reluctant to tell the world about her situation to actively raise money for her service dog, but said sharing her story for this Amazing Tails fundraiser is her first step toward taking control of her situation.
“This has all been very discouraging,” she said. “The more depressed you are, the harder it is to come out and ask for help. But I’m putting that behind me and also want to help others overcome chronic illnesses to live better, happier lives.”
There are so many people like Jen who need the help provided by a service dog. Please help Amazing Tails by donating what you can here at YouCaring.
“You Believe in the Power! It’ll be Alright!”
Russ Perry is a 58-year-old with progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Born into an athletic family, he enjoyed an active childhood with his older brother and younger sisters. In high school he lettered in three sports: football, basketball and baseball.
Following high school, he worked in heavy construction and in 1986, started working in the maintenance department at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware, an active, happy community, full of life and energy.
In 1989, Russ was on campus for the filming of “Dead Poets Society,” and it was during the filming that he experienced the early symptoms of the disease.
The late, great Robin Williams had stopped by the maintenance building to meet everyone. Russ had a camera and started filming.
“My legs began to shake uncontrollably, and Robin Williams noticed,” Russ said. “He steadied the camera, looked into the lens, and went into his shtick, ‘You believe in the power! It’ll be alright!’”
For a decade, the shaking, weakness and loss of balance got worse. Russ’s coworkers noticed his clumsiness and would joke, “Hey, Russ, don’t trip over that twig!” or “Watch out for the white line in the pavement!”
He laughed with them, but inside he was terrified. Robin William’s words, “You believe in the power! It’ll be alright!” echoed in his mind as he made his first neurologist appointment in 1999.
Diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS, his life had changed forever.
Since the diagnosis he has kept MS at bay with exercise and various procedures, including an abdominal implant of a pump that injects an anti-spasticity drug, into his spine.
“As the disease progresses, I am in a constant state of adaption,” he said. “Even with the assistance of a cane, walking takes intense concentration. I cannot turn my head from side to side or stop quickly. Curbs present a particular challenge as my momentum can carry me into traffic.”
After retiring in 2015, his life’s focus has been on overcoming the debilitating effects of the disease. He recently interviewed at Amazing Tails and was amazed by the difference a service dog could make.
“I was overwhelmed by the sense of confidence and independence that a service dog can provide,” he said. “I wanted to take that dog home, but it’s not that easy. Service dogs go through an intensive training regimen, and it ain’t cheap. Each service dog costs $10,000 to train, so I must be patient and help raise the funds for Amazing Tails.”
Russ Perry is a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend to many and a teammate.
“To be clear, MS does not define me. It is along for the ride, knocking me off balance and providing me with weak, spastic legs,” he said. “As the MS progresses, I have a choice: settle for life in a wheelchair or fight for the ability to walk one step at a time.”
Russ is clearly a fighter. You can help Amazing Tails help Russ and thousands of people like him by donating to our cause, right here at YouCaring.
As you can tell from these stories, life can be fragile. Quality of life and the freedom to exist independently can be snatched away without warning.
Amazing Tails exists to help people who find themselves in these situations and so many others.
Please give what you can by donating to this ongoing YouCaring donation drive.
For more information, please visit www.amazingtails.org.