For East Nashvillian Andrew Booker, a service dog named Rex could literally save his life. Andrew lives with Epilepsy, Type 1 Diabetes and in recent years was diagnosed with Autonomic Autoimmune Ganglionopathy (AAG), a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. All of this means that Andrew cannot be left alone. With Andrew's wife, Alicia, needing to work, Rex, a Labrador Retriever from Retrieving Independence, is his answer to safety and freedom.
Says Andrew, "Rex can notify me when my blood sugar is askew, he can warn me before I have a seizure and make sure I get on and the ground and am safe. He can also help me with my mobility issues which are caused by the AAG."
While Rex has been paired with Andrew, he cannot come home until the required funds are raised for his specialized training and care.
The Cost of Bringing Home a Service Dog
According to Andrew, the base cost of obtaining Rex is $8,000, which covers the nonprofit organization's costs involved in raising and training the dog. Beyond that are intensive out-of-town training courses, special care for Rex and more.
To help raise the funds needed, Andrew is running a special IndieGogo campaign. He says, "Our Facebook presence is growing by the day and we have gotten some famous followers on our Twitter feed. There are country music artists, such as Allye Singleton, who are dedicating their performance to Rex and I and our cause at the South Jackson Goes Country concert this August." Andrew, Alicia and Rex were also recently featured on this News 4 segment.
As of this article, Andrew is a little over halfway to his $20,000 goal, but they need additional support to hit their mark by July 31 to ensure that Rex can be brought home.
Love at First Sight
When Andrew and Alicia first visited Retrieving Independence (based in Linden, TN), they were given the opportunity to meet three puppies who could be potential service dogs. But when they were introduced to a yellow lab pup named Rex, the connection was immediate.
"When they brought him into the room, he walked over, picked up his own leash, and brought it over to me," says Andrew. "He laid it right in my lap. I told them, 'he's the one'." Since then, Andrew has been able to visit Rex, and the bond only seems to deepen each time.
But the Bookers cannot bring Rex home until the necessary funds have been raised. Says Andrew, "If we can successfully raise our funding by July 31, then Rex can complete his training and we should be able to bring him home in November."
Andrew says of Rex, "He is brilliant and beautiful. He will help me achieve a level of independence that I haven't known for quite some time. I always have to be watched over either by my wife, family or my home health care worker, but they can't be there all the time."
Rex would serve as a constant loyal companion to not only provide emotional support and love, but also vital assistance with everyday life. In fact, service dogs like Rex are trained to complete a lengthy list of tasks, such as the ones listed here on the Retrieving Independence website.
Rex's greatest gift, however, is the gift of freedom. Says Andrew, "I have had an eventful life so far. I have gone to school, been a missionary, worked as a preschool teacher, studied and taught martial arts, worked in healthcare, written children's books and served as a police officer. Rex will help give me my independence back."
How You Can Help
A service dog like Rex can not only provide love and companionship, but can truly mean lifesaving independence for many individuals. If you would like to support Andrew in reaching his fundraising goal, please visit his website at ServiceDogForDrew.com for details and a link to his campaign, as well as links to his YouTube and Facebook pages.
But please hurry... the fundraising campaign ends on July 31.
Photos of Andrew and Rex courtesy of his wife Alicia Booker, a Nashville-based photographer. For photography details, visit her website for Booker Studios.