my company wants to sponsor me for a service dog, but I’m not sure I should accept

A reader writes:

I’m a middle manager (of justice!) at a company I love, in an industry I love. I’ve also been struggling with several out-of-the-blue disabilities for the last couple of years, although I am at a place where my treatments are doing all they can, so I may be able to return to work possibly full-time … if I have a service dog, due to the nature of one of my disabilities.

I’m on a waiting list, and the wait is anywhere from 3-5 years as it costs about $25,000 to train a service dog to the point where they’re ready to assist someone with my specific disability. I broached the topic a year and a half ago to HR to test the waters and their response was “OMG YES PLEASE” so that’s pretty positive!

Now my company’s offering to donate that amount to expedite the process, which the group that does the training is absolutely down with and is thrilled by (especially as it usually means future donations). I’m a little uncomfortable “jumping the line” just because my company can spend the money, but at the same time, I want to be back at work (and back to my life!) as much as possible because I work in tech and I’m already behind on current-generation hands-on experience. My work wants me back (which feels amazing), and it’s really above and beyond “accommodating” at this point. Also, despite having worked there for six years, I don’t feel like I’m a particularly… high-enough level person to be afforded this? I mean, I wouldn’t begrudge our lowest-paid people being given assistance like this so I shouldn’t have a double standard for myself, but it’s also… a large fraction of my salary. Or rent for over a year. It’s a lot of money to me. If things didn’t work out and I wasn’t able to return to work full-time, I wouldn’t be able to pay them back.

I was already their employee for life before this and had no intentions of leaving, but I just want a sanity check on this. Is this okay to accept? It’s not a magic wand, but it will give me access back to things I haven’t had and a HUGE increase in freedom and mobility, not to mention quality of life (living alone with this is kinda scary sometimes), so I am worried I’m not thinking clearly because I want it so badly.

I basically want to be told I’m overthinking this, to say yes, thank my lucky stars, and work my little heart out for them because they’re not just going to give me a chance to have my career back, but my whole life back, and it’s making me kinda teary.

That or a “What?! No!” because that’s my favourite response from you.

Signed, I’m Not Used To Being Valued Like This

Let them do this for you.

They are clear on the cost, and they’ve apparently assessed the situation and determined it’s something they’d like to do. Let them do it.

As you say, you wouldn’t begrudge your lowest-paid colleagues this kind of assistance. Let them do it for you as well. Don’t put yourself in some kind of no-person’s land where you don’t feel you’re paid a large enough or a small enough amount to be able to ethically accept the help.

They want to help you. You love working for them. This is a really good combination.

If it makes you feel better, you can say to them, “If things didn’t work out and I wasn’t able to return to work full-time, I wouldn’t be able to pay you back. How would we handle it if happened?” I’m quite sure that they understand the risk and will tell you that they wouldn’t expect you to pay them back, regardless of how this turns out, but getting that worry out into the open and hearing their response will probably help you feel better.

I do hear you on the worry about “jumping the line.” I don’t know enough about how this works to weigh in on the ethics of that … but if the group that does the training is happy with this arrangement, then the people who are best positioned to tell you whether this is reasonable and ethical are telling you pretty clearly that it’s okay with them.

Go get your dog.

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick

    This speaks volumes for how valuable an employee you are to them, OP. Good for you, and for your company.

    1. Cambridge Comma

      Yes, don’t see it as a favour, see it as an investment the company wants to make because they are convinced if the value of the return, i.e. you in the office.

      1. OhNo

        That is kind of how it reads, which may actually be part of what is causing the OP pause. If it is an investment, what if it doesn’t pay off? What if the OP can’t come back to work, or isn’t as effective/productive/efficient at their job as they used to be? Then the company might classify it as a “bad” investment, which may sour them on either the OP or the charitable contribution they made, or both.

        I think it would benefit the OP’s piece of mind to float that idea to whoever is offering, just as a “what if” scenario. Then they will have all the information they can possibly have, and make a decision accordingly.

        For what it’s worth, OP, I heartily support taking your company’s offer on this one. It sounds like they are an excellent place to work and they truly care about their employees (i.e.: you). I’m seconding Alison: go get your dog!

        1. OP Dog-To-Be

          That is part of what I worried about, and we will have to cover it in some of my return-to-work meetings. Fortunately I do know that my company is good people and wouldn’t hold it against me, I just feel like I would hold it against me, if that makes sense. :)

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Ah, but would you hold it against your colleague if they were in the same position? I’m quite sure that you would not.

            Maybe it will help to look at from their side of things: Imagine if you were in the position to be able to do this for someone. You’d probably be really excited about it and feel amazing (just look at how amazing we all feel as bystanders!). You would really, really not want that person to opt out based on a worry that you’d be disappointed if they couldn’t return to work afterwards.

            1. OP Dog-To-Be

              Oh for sure, I totally agree! I’m definitely in a double-standard mindset for myself and it’s something I’m working on letting go of, to my therapist’s occasional cattle-prodding.

              Gosh yes I’d want this for anyone who needed it! So yes, I am gonna go get my dog. :) And encourage anyone else to go get their dog in whatever form that happens to take.

              You’re all so wonderful.

              1. Kittymommy

                Good, because yes you are over thinking out and you should let them do it. They sound like amazing people and an amazing company.

              2. snuck

                Good.

                (I’ll save the rest for a full comment later. But the bottom line is… Good. Get the dog.)

              3. Sparrow

                I love this, OP: “And encourage anyone else to go get their dog in whatever form that happens to take.” Good luck to you! :)

              4. AMT

                By accepting the advice and good wishes of the AAM community, you have entered into a legally binding agreement to send pictures of said dog. Preferably wearing a little graduation cap.

          2. Observer

            I’m betting that they see that as an acceptable risk, since it also has the benefit of broadcasting to all and sundry within the organization that they will go to bat for their people. They don’t have to broadcast the amount they spent, just that “we are SOO glad we were able to help Dog-To-Be get his service dog!”.

          3. Purple Dragon

            My company does charitable donations and if a staff member has an issue, or one of their family members has an issue, that is the cause that is supported.

            In our case we’ve had one woman with cancer and the company did a fundraising and matched it for that specific type of cancer. Another woman’s sister was ill with breast cancer so we did a fundraising with matching for breast cancer research.

            With so many charities to support maybe they’ve picked the dog one because someone they know (you) will be positively affected by it. It’s often more personal if people (and companies) can actually see the person/people they’ve helped. Could it be something like that ?

            Also – if you’re uncomfortable with jumping the queue when you get more mobile could you do something to help their fundraising efforts ? Spread the word on your social media or maybe write up an article of how the dog has positively impacted your life and see if someone like Good News Network will publish it, getting publicity for the cause (and maybe some good publicity for your company – but check with them first).

            I hope this isn’t too random – if it is I’m blaming pain killers ;)

      2. JR

        It’s an investment in more than just this one employee (though I certainly think the letter writer should feel very valued!). It’s also an investment in how the company is seen by other current and perspective employees – as a company that has its employees’ backs, as a company that values diversity, as a company that is accommodating to different needs, etc. It’s also an investment in the company’s image among external stakeholders – the nonprofit that trains the dogs, that nonprofit’s board members and other stakeholders, anyone who reads about the donation, etc. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all – just thought it might make the letter writer feel better to consider that s/he isn’t responsible for the entire return on investment for the company!

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Yes, all of this. I would feel so good about my employers if I found out that they had helped an employee get a service dog, even if that employee could not come back to work. It would reaffirm my belief that I’m working for good people who will be good to me even if something unfortunate comes my way.

          OP, you can also view this as partially investment for the future and partially a thank you for the past work you’ve done.

          1. JessaB

            This and as a disabled person it would totally make me want to work for the company, they obviously not only believe in their people they put their money where their mouths are. Which means that other people who might need accommodation would want to work for them. This is a good thing. A seriously good thing.

        2. Jen

          Exactly this. Just look at all the feedback you’ve gotten from this post. If your company’s name were attached, we’d all have a lovely impression of them. In all the other ways described above, their name *is* attached/ associated, so this is a total positive for them.

          In the grand scheme of what it costs to train, maintain, and provide benefits (forget salary) for an employee, $25k is not that much!

  2. Anna No Mouse

    We’ve had some real contenders for “Worst Boss of 2016” lately. It’s nice to hear about a company that could be nominated for “Best Boss.” I’m so sorry for your difficulties, OP, and I am so glad you’ll get an opportunity to get your life back to where you want it to be. This is the kind of good story that I wish we heard more often.

    1. JMegan

      Agreed. I love this story. And “Go get your dog” might be my new favourite piece of advice from Alison. OP, I hope you’ll update us when you can!

          1. AF

            AGREED on all counts! After Ned, and the liver-donation Boss, we all need stories like this! OP, I also want to echo the sentiment that you are clearly awesome!

      1. Al Lo

        I read “Go get your dog” in Leslie Knope’s “Now go find your team” voice. Just in case you needed it to feel even more inspirational and tear-jerking!

        1. MsMaryMary

          So am I! I was reproaching myself for getting teary (I am so tired of hearing about bad things/people, it’s so good to hear good news) but I feel better that I have company.

          Best of luck, OP. Sounds like you’re due for some.

    2. Nova Terra

      Yes, this. There are good people, and sometimes we don’t see enough of them in the world.

    3. Nobody

      Yes, it’s really nice to see a company going above and beyond to treat its employees well. I was starting to lose faith in humanity after the one about the boss stalking the employee during chemo treatments.

      1. Kyrielle

        *sticking tongue firmly in cheek*

        …maybe that letter-writer also needs a service dog. Whose only job is to firmly but gently shove Ned toward the door whenever he shows up.

        1. OP Dog-To-Be

          Believe it or not, one of the things the dogs are trained to do is physically get between their person and a source of anxiety, or physically remove their person from an area that is causing them severe anxiety/upset/exhaustion.

          I think Ned would count for all of the above.

          1. Kyrielle

            I agree! Poor dog, though – their person can’t be removed during chemotherapy, and just blocking Ned won’t help much because he can still talk. (And unfortunately, knocking him down or actually shoving him would probably not be okay. Even though it makes a GLORIOUS mental image.)

  3. pope suburban

    You’re overthinking this. Go, get your life back. You have as much right to live and work as anyone else.

  4. F.

    What an incredible testament to your value to the company!

    One caveat: Get an agreement in writing regarding the terms of the agreement. Is the service animal yours to use only while you remain employed with the company? What if you are unable to work any longer? What if the situation or management at your company changes and you (or they) decide you need to work elsewhere? Would you have to pay back any or all of the cost? As an employer and as an employee, I would want an agreement of this magnitude clearly spelled out in writing. If the company draws up the agreement, have your attorney look at it and be sure you completely understand it before you agree to signing it and accepting the service animal.

    1. Analyst

      INAL but I believe the phrasing you need is that you would own the dog “free and clear” of any contingencies.

      1. E

        IANAL either but the ownership of the dog wouldn’t be a question so much as that the funds from the company were a gift, with no contingencies or related expectations.

        1. Analyst

          Right, or else the dog could be considered collateral. But only in the eyes of a bad company!

          Also if the funds for the dog are distributed directly to OP, then OP probably owes taxes on those funds. Ideally the funds are somehow donated in OP’s name to the cause. Getting a real lawyer on board would be wise here.

          1. Steve

            IANAL either but as long as the funds are donated directly by the company to the organization, while they might have expectations that the OP will work there for some amount of time, I just can’t see how that would set up any legal contract requiring the OP to do so or to pay back the donation. Even if they did give the money directly to the OP, in the absence of a contract, it would seem it would just be treated as some kind of bonus. A contract can be legalese, email, or even verbal but it has to have clear terms known and understood by both parties in a “meeting of the minds.” So just an expectation in the heads of the company(‘s executives) that the OP will work there for a long time, does not create a contract unilaterally.

    2. MK

      I don’t think the company is actually buying the OP a dog. If I understand correctly, they are giving the money to an organization that is going to give the OP a dog anyway, just years later.

      1. OhNo

        It sounds like the donation is intended to help speed up the process of getting the OP a dog sooner than the normal multiple year wait time. So the money goes directly to the organization, and in return the organization prioritizes getting a service dog for the OP. So that might not be “buying” the OP a dog, but it could be viewed as “buying” an expedited return to work that the OP may or may not be able to fulfill.

        (As an aside, I’ll admit that as a disabled person, I’m not thrilled with the precedent that donating a large sum of money gets you bumped up the list for services – especially because donations of that size are out of reach for many/most disabled people. But that’s an issue for another day; right now I’m just really happy that the OP will be able to get their dog ASAP thanks to their incredibly generous company!)

        1. TootsNYC

          It may well be that the donation will actually be bigger than the strict cost of one dog. And it’s a donation that might never arrive at all if there weren’t that extra perk for it.

          So by “selling” the expedited service, the charity very probably finds itself able to help many more people than if it didn’t offer this.

          1. OP Dog-To-Be

            This is absolutely the case.

            Plus, once you make one donation, the paperwork is done and it’s really, really easy to turn it into an annual donation, even if not for the same amount.

            1. Mika McKinnon

              OP, don’t think of this as a gift to you. Instead, you’re the inspiration for your company to start or direct their charitable efforts.

              Your company gets more than just you returning to work. They get a tax deduction and good PR. They build goodwill with you and their other employees who see how well they treat their people, increasing loyalty. It even increases their status in attracting quality employees.

              Your misfortune is the catalyst for a bit of good in this world. Accept it graciously, and pay it back by trying to make the world a little better yourself.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          Good point, but if it makes an extra dog available, it ends up helping everyone down the line.

        3. OP Dog-To-Be

          You have it exactly, I originally wanted to phrase it as “They want to buy me a service dog” but it really isn’t a fair assessment.

          For your second paragraph, yeah, that’s where a lot of my uncertainty comes from too. I’m extremely lucky to have a big company willing to donate to expedite this, but what about people who don’t? The dogs are all provided free of charge but belong to the organization (if it ever becomes an issue of dog’s health and safety), and honestly, it’s awful to think about but most people who require a service dog don’t just require ONE, they require one for life, which winds up being several dogs. I’m fortunate that I’ll be able to train a “replacement” on-site with my dog (!!!) to help mentor the younger dog and ease the older into retirement, although hopefully it won’t be for many many years. They also provide homes for retired service dogs if people can’t keep multiple dogs, although I’m pretty sure my office would wind up being first in line if it came to that.

          I think the best I can do is to do my job, but also be a bigger voice for this and look to getting the company involved with this organization as more than a one-time thing. I do a lot of work for our Pride contributions, I do a lot of public speaking in general at schools and such (women in STEM, women in tech, diversity in tech, etc), so this would be a really easy fit into my job description.

          I’ll also be the only person in the company with a visible disability, and I think that’ll be important too because it’s something that needs addressing in my industry in general, but in the company itself too. I already am not entirely sure how I’ll get to certain bathrooms in the building.

          1. Mika McKinnon

            The economics barriers to accessibility are real. You’re recognizing your privilege, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a martyr by rejecting this offer. You can pay back your moral debt by doing what you already do: be aware, be appreciative, be a good employee, be a public advocate, be a mentor. Be the good person you already are.

            It’s okay to accept when life gives you lemonade for once.

            1. Kyrielle

              This. Remember, the point of acknowledging privilege is _not_ to try to lower the most-privileged person to the same position as the least, or even to the mid-point…it’s to raise the least-privileged person, to level the field as much as possible by raising the bottom of it.

              1. Kyrielle

                The more I reread this, the less I like my phrasing. Argh. Not just the least-privileged person, but all who are less-privileged.

                It should be a give-to, not a take-from. (And, like filling in ditches, sometimes you _do_ have to take from the one with far more than is needed to give to the one with less than is needed. But you shouldn’t be taking-from just to take from, but rather, to give-to. If someone’s needs are not being met, not meeting someone else’s needs does not make it right.)

                1. OP Dog-To-Be

                  I totally understood what you meant, but yes. Until things are equal on an institutional level, we have to go for fairness, and you’re totally right.

                  It’s just HARD to accept that sometimes I can have nice things! Partly because I’m usually the reason why we CAN’T have nice things…

            2. Rahera

              This is very much what I wanted to say. You are clearly a very aware, responsible person, OP, and want to do the right thing.

              It’s wonderful that your company wants to help you get a dog that would make such a difference to you. I say accept it, and I’m sure you’ll find a way to pay it forward on all sorts of levels.

              I firmly believe that adjusting to whatever life brings you now with the support of your dog (yay!!!) and living a fuller and more productive life is a way of paying it forward in itself.

              So happy you have this opportunity :).

          2. Chinook

            “I’m extremely lucky to have a big company willing to donate to expedite this, but what about people who don’t? The dogs are all provided free of charge but belong to the organization ”

            Since the donation covers more than the cost of one dog, you may want to think of it as creating a few extra spots at the front of the line for those who don’t work for a company like yours (while at the same time moving up the line for those at the back). If you weren’t there with the company money, the line wouldn’t have moved at all. (and I get the whole “jumping the queue” guilty feeling. It happens in Canada a lot when there is an option for private health services and that is where I first heard about “adding a few more spaces at the head of the line” argument.)

          3. snuck

            I understand to an extent where you are coming from. I am in the long, slow process of getting one of the first Western Australian trained Autism Support dogs for my son … and have gone back and forth between getting a free organisation trained one vs self funding (because we can, but we’d have to do most of the training ourselves – I can’t afford the $30k tag on it, but I could pull $10k out of our son’s therapy budget).

            I’ve been battling with the fact that I was first in on the newly developed program list here, that because of the luck of my good timing I’m likely to get one of the first dogs in the state that are locally and properly trained (and we have very strict licencing laws, so this will be the first official Autism Support Dog that’s legally licenced, others in this state brought in from elsewhere are not legally allowed out and about in public). Why should I (well… my son… but trust me, I am a benefit just as much as my son will be) get the luck before others? Others who have just as much, or more need, just as many demands on finances (and may not have the savings and financial security we do), others who are just as desperate, moreso.

            I’ve come to realise that many, many people need these dogs, my research into the training of them is that there is huge cost and risk involved – a lot don’t make it through the training, and that while my son has less obvious challenges than others, he very much still needs this tool. If he were to wait for all the others to get their dogs first he’d never get one, and we’d never be able to go out in public without 100% adult supervision for him (and rapid rearrangements of plans regularly, retreat home). Another consideration on this is that for us it’s an 80/20 thing. My son’s challenges are few, but debilitating when they hit, most of the time he’s fine. Because of how severe his sensory issues are he isn’t having a chance at a full life, but the rest of his life is relatively normal – the impact a dog will have on his life will be profound, and work a great deal towards closing the gap between him and his challenges on many fronts – leading to a more integrated life. I’m aware that this means he will be publically ‘marked’ as disabled, something not obvious to look at him, but it also will give him immense freedom, and while I have friends with children with more challenges, the impact this could have on my son, and his ability to function in a normal way in his life into the future… cannot be discounted. It won’t cause a remission of Autism, but it’s going to be worth years of therapy on so many fronts.

            The wider issue of paying large amounts for service animals is separate to an extent. This is the sad reality that they just cost that much. Some wash out and don’t make it through training, the training is literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of work, and well over a year of the dog’s care, health and all the rest. The truth is these dogs are worth every penny, and the cost I believe should be offset by insurance schemes, government medical reimbursement etc…. with the prospective owners also paying a contribution of some kind, but nothing like what it is. Just because the funding to cover costs isn’t there doesn’t mean you shouldn’t access it out of principle.

            The reality is that there is always someone with more need than you, less resources. But you need to focus on what you need, and the resources you can muster, and get your own needs met too. I would go with it, the business probably has a budget each year to donate for tax purposes, and this year they’ve found a double bonus – a tax donation AND helping a valued employee. Totally worth it for them, and for you.

            1. OP Dog-To-Be

              Oh, big hugs to you and your son, and I hope you get your dog soon! I completely understand where you’re coming from. Autism Assistance trained dogs are fairly new here too, but they’re covered under the same laws as the other categories of service dogs (they’re just specifically aimed at children, at least right now) and I think it’s wonderful.

              Service dogs here HAVE to be trained through one of a few organizations to qualify for all the benefits and legal definitions as a service dog. On the one hand it means that’s good because they are all non-profit organizations that don’t charge for dogs, but on the other hand it means a long wait and possible rejection if your job/home/life isn’t designated safe or appropriate. It’s nerve-wracking to go through the initial application process, never mind the wait afterwards. There’s a very watered-down version that self-trained dogs can apply for that is Canine Citizenship, but they don’t get the same government stipend and they’re still considered dogs, not Mobility Devices in terms of all the laws involving them. It’s a big part of why I haven’t considered training a dog myself. But it means waiting, or having someone sponsor you directly.

              I absolutely hear you on being flagged as “different” or “disabled”, too — people can’t go anywhere with a service dog or service dog in training without being constantly stopped, talked to, asked questions about, and occasionally harassed about. I’m going into this fully aware and okay with that condition, but it’s not really okay to expect everyone to not only be doing what they’re doing that requires assistance but also to play Disability Ambassador And Teacher at the same time. It’s in my personality to do it, but I’ll bet there will be days when I am waiting for my train and just want to go HOME and no you can’t pet my dog they’re on duty.

              The graduation rate here is about 65% and I also looked at a “failed” service dog adoption to see if that would help (because a lot wash out for things I can compensate for as they’re not reasons I’d be depending on them), but they still don’t have the service dog designation. They’re just really well-trained dogs. I don’t have the physical ability to have a “pet” dog in terms of the amount of care they’d need because it would be outside of working and everyday hours, if that makes sense — but a service dog is on-the-job all day, so they don’t require “extra” exercise in the form of long walks, they just need downtime and playtime. This is what really made me sit up and consider it seriously.

              I look at my life now and it’s maybe 30% of what it was before in terms of what I can, and do, do. A service dog may only give me back another 20%, but that’s a 20% I cannot have on my own. I honestly think it’s going to be more, but it doesn’t matter. I think everyone should have access to the tools they need to live their lives as big or small as they want, and I have a feeling this is probably going to be another major facet of my life in terms of awareness and fundraising and everyday talking about. If I can help other people (and there are SO many new ways they’re finding service dogs, and other animals can help!) then that’s what I want to do.

              Good thing most people like dogs. ;) So good luck to you and your son and I hope that things are wonderful. At the very least, your son and I are both getting new best friends, and that’s pretty priceless on its own. :)

              1. Phyllis B

                I understand your comment about not wanting to full-time ambassador and I know not to pet a service dog on duty, but what can we, as the general public do to show that we wish you well, and love that you have such a devoted helper? I usually just smile, and if I make eye-contact with the person, will say hello and something like, “beautiful dog.” which sounds so inane.

                1. Phyllis B

                  Also, just to share a personal tidbit. One time I heard a commotion in the front yard and went to see what was going on and there were two beautiful dogs out there. One was a Brittany Spaniel and the other a Golden Lab. Very friendly (and muddy) well, I knew they belonged to SOMEBODY so I went into the house and picked up our two dog leashes to strap on and decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to see if anyone was missing their dogs. Well, obviously these dogs loved going for walks because they took off at full-speed (down-hill!!!) and pulled me off my feet. I was belly-down on the pavement, but before I could react one went to one side of me, the other one to the other side and they slithered under me and gently nudged me to my feet. I know they weren’t service dogs, because a service dog wouldn’t have taken off like that, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they didn’t live with someone who had trained them to do this.

                2. OP Dog-To-Be

                  Honestly? I don’t know yet! That’s what I do too, and otherwise try to give them space no matter how much I desperately want to talk about their dog. It’s actually something that will be covered in my training, so I will totally leave this open to people who actually have service dogs (and I am so, so thrilled that people are chiming in here who DO have them).

                  I mean, I’m one of those people who talks to strangers on a regular basis, so I’ll probably be happy to chat (until my train comes or the light changes or whatnot) and carry stuff to direct people to the websites and how they can help or if they have questions or are wanting to look into getting service dog assistance, but I am pretty sure that “Great dog!” is never going to stop making my heart three sizes larger, because when I used to walk my old dog and people said that it was the highlight of my day. Especially as she was a rescue pitbull mix, so like, it was extra nice that people weren’t afraid of her (it was pretty hard to be, she was all wags and sloppy grins) and I was 100% for people petting her and carried treats for them to give her.

  5. Misskitty

    If you can afford it, a good way to offset the issue of “jumping the line” is to make regular donations yourself to the organization that trains dogs. Work out what you can afford and make a monthly (or weekly, or yearly) donation.

    1. Megs

      I was going to suggest this as a way to assuage any ethical qualms – even small regular donations can make a big difference to a reputable organization.

      And I am so happy that the OP’s employer is willing to do this!

    2. Kate M

      Right, or if you can and feel up to it, you can always find ways to volunteer, maybe speak to prospective donors about how it’s affected you, etc. There are many ways to pay it forward.

      I totally get not wanting to be unethical and jump the line. BUT, usually lines are rigid and “unjumpable” when they really need to be. Organ donation? There are such specific criteria I don’t think anyone would be able to jump the line. But something like this? If the organization is ok with it, then it must be a beneficial thing for them too. If your company making this donation allows them to train more dogs or have greater resources, it’s a win-win.

      1. Joseph

        Exactly. If the organization is OK with you “jumping the line”, it’s likely because they see the benefits of your company’s large donation and understand just how much this could help them in their mission. Your company’s large donation is probably giving a service dog to another person who needs it, but can’t afford it.

        Also, it’s pretty awesome that your company is willing to do this.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas

        “Organ donation? There are such specific criteria I don’t think anyone would be able to jump the line.”

        Unless you’re Frank Underwood. (Or Doug Stamper, really.)

      3. OP Dog-To-Be

        I laughed a lot — I’d rather not be jumping the organ donation line anytime soon (although I do have my card in my wallet).

        I think this is definitely how I want to give back. I was a dog trainer long ago, and while I only do it now and then for friends, it wouldn’t be a stretch to do regular sessions for the organization. Honestly, it’d be a delight! I have a cat at home that I have put my clicker-training skills towards and while she’ll only do things if she can SEE the treat, she loves learning new things and I’m running out of tricks to teach her.

        1. JMegan

          I cannot stop giggling at the idea of a service cat. “Yeah, you want me to do WHAT? Do it yourself, I’m really busy over here.” Cat stands up, stretches, turns in a half circle, and resumes napping.

          You sound really happy, OP – I’m very glad you allowed Alison to talk you into accepting the dog!

          1. OP Dog-To-Be

            Oh my gosh, my cat would be a terrible service animal.

            “Hey, I need my medication –”
            “Get it yourself, I’m busy licking my butt.”

            “Uh oh I’m greying out, can you get me to a place where I can sit?”
            “Nope, I’m already sitting here.”

            “Oh no, I missed my break, my blood sugar is crashing, aren’t you supposed to –”
            “One of your co-workers had tuna for lunch. Priorities.”

            1. Former Computer Professional

              I had a cat that, in retrospect, was as closet to a service animal as you can get.

              She was very emphatically not a lap cat. The only time she would sit ON me is when I overslept and she wanted food (and then she’d jump on my chest and literally SMACK my face until I woke up).

              Anyway. I had been ill for a while and was feeling awful when I went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling worse and finding her cuddled against me. Confused, I fell back asleep and woke up again with her the same way. I took my temperature — it was 104.7.

              I spent the next three weeks in the hospital and when I got home had to take some heavy drugs every 6 hours – for three months. She caught on to the routine and if I overslept and was about to miss a dose, she’d jump on me and smack me awake.

              I miss her.

              1. OP Dog-To-Be

                She sounds like a wonderful cat!

                A cat I had when I was a bit younger would have been an excellent service animal. She was outgoing, gregarious, everyone was her friend, and charmed the pants off everyone from appliance repair people to delivery people as she had to supervise and inspect everything they were doing. She also took charge of any screws involved.

                She also insisted on sitting on whatever part of a person was hurting and purring. My mom had a rough year where she had shoulder surgery and then six months later a knee replacement, and my cat spent the entire time on the spots that hurt. You couldn’t crowbar her off, she’d just ooze back into place. She’d also come running if anyone was crying and shove herself in their faces, purring.

                She was a very good cat :) My current cat is missing that Florence Nightingale gene. I think it was replaced with Machiavelli.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  I’ve heard of cats like this–and there is that one who lives in the animal hospital and comforts the other animals who are ill or have had surgery. I saw it on Facebook somewhere. <3

        2. Mutt

          There’s a video about a guy tho taught his cat to “hunt” for ping pong balls and bring them to the feeder, and drop them in so the feeder dispenses food. I found it fascinating!

          1. Mutt

            Search for Monkey the Cat Hunts for Dinner on YouTube, the link is stuck in moderation :)

        3. Crystal Vu

          I’ve taught my cat how to come when I whistle, to sit on command, and shake hands. Granted, I was unemployed then and had plenty of time on my hands, but people’s minds are blown when they hear about it.

    3. Frances

      Oooh, that’s a really nice idea.
      The costs to raise and train a service dog are really high. Many families cannot afford it so this would be extremely helpful.

  6. penny

    You may not feel you’re that “important” on the org chart, but clearly they value your work if they want to go beyond for you. And since you’re sincere in your gratitude, in loving working with them, and you’re hope you can get back to work for your sake and theirs, I don’t think it would hurt to share that with them when u have this conversation.

    I also don’t know much about service dogs, but I think this situation makes it okay to jump the line. Having a company sponsor or donate that amount of money for training probably allows the organization to train another dog for someone who can’t pay.

  7. Bowserkitty

    I think this is an amazing opportunity, OP. I’m going to echo the majority of people here in saying GO FOR IT!!! :)

  8. Terra

    If it makes you feel better since it’s considered a “donation” your company is probably just going to write this off on their taxes and it may effectively cost them nothing. I don’t know that for sure but it’s not uncommon for that to happen with charitable donations. Also I feel you about jumping the line but if it helps think of it as your company is paying a fee to get your dog early and then that fee allows the people who train the assistance animals to give them to people for free or reduced prices to others.

    1. Meg

      Right-that’s what I was going to say. It sounds like they aren’t “buying” the dog; they are donating to the organization and get to take the deduction for tax purposes. This will cost them something but not the full $25,000. The cost to replace you is probably significantly more than donating for this dog. I would also assume since you are getting the dog from the organization rather than your employer, this doesn’t create additional obligations between you and your employer (but I could be wrong). Either way, it sounds like you are looking to leave. Take the dog. Enjoy the mobility and lifestyle positives. When you are able, donate to the dog organization and pay it forward.

    2. AMG

      Plus, many companies have budgets set aside for donations; this may be money they are spending anyway. My husband is long-term sick, so I how it can be accepting help. But you should. I make budgets for projects that have staff expenses on them and I would not bat an eye at spending $25K for a good staff member. As we know from reading AAM, many people spend far more time and energy on bad employees. You’re a known quantity–a good known quantity–and worth taking the risk. Go forth and enjoy your service companion! I hope it brings freedom, love and independence for you.

    3. LQ

      It is also an opportunity to show that they are supportive and accommodating to current and future employees. Look at our donation to NonProfit.

      And from the nonprofit’s side they are getting a company to support them, which they may do again in the future. Loyalty from you, who might donate especially if this helps you get back to work which is very valuable as well, plus a shiny success story which they can use to help market and sell their program in the future.

      (I really hope these things make you feel better about doing it because go! Do it! :))

      1. Shannon

        Yeah. I’m not trying to sound jaded, but, this is a win/ win feel good PR story for both sides. “When our employee, Jane, got ill with BadDisease, we, at AwesomeCo, did our best to help her. When she told us that a service dog would help her, we contacted DogCharity to get her the help she needed. Now, thanks to Jane, we are aware of the great work being done at DogCharity and continue to donate to them.” I could easily see this being a lifestyle piece on the local news/ in the local newspaper.

        1. LQ

          Yeah. I don’t think that’s jaded. A company wants to be a good company and this is a way they are doing it and they are showing it because they want to attract people who want to work at a good company. It’s a nice virtuous cycle for everyone. But or because of that… it absolutely is something that the OP should take advantage of!!

        2. Anon for this

          I work for a newspaper. I think it would be better if OP or a friend let the local news know about it, but we would definitely cover it either way.

      2. OP Dog-To-Be

        Thank you so much. Yes, this is exactly something we’ll likely take advantage of, both in a “hey look what the company did this year in community outreach” and “look how awesome we are to our employees”, but that’ll be PR’s job in the future — I’ll just make sure to point it out. ;)

        1. Mika McKinnon

          When you do, I’m a science writer and strong advocate for making STEM more accessible. Give them my name. I would LOVE to write something warm-fuzzy for once.

          1. OP Dog-To-Be

            I’d love to, especially since my industry is generally on the bad press side instead of the warm-fuzzy. Ugh.

    4. MK

      Well, not cost them nothing; tax deductions are sums subtracted from your income, not the amount you pay. But, yes, the company will probably offset part the cost with this, as well as gain positive PR.

      1. OwnedByTheCat

        And depending on the size of the company this may come out of a charitable budget that already exists.

    5. TootsNYC

      This is true–since this will be a donation, your company gets the usual benefits of donating.

      And many companies want to donate in general, and this way they have a donation that they can feel extra good about. Also–that donation is in all probability not going to simply reimburse them for the cost of one dog–I would be very surprised if they weren’t able to cove the cost of this dog and maybe another one.

    6. JR

      Companies often don’t take a tax deduction for making a charitable donation (except when they’re donating to a company foundation, which wouldn’t come into play here). Instead, this would be seen as a cost of doing business, and companies are only taxed on their profits, not their revenues – so charitable donations generally are treated exactly the same as company spending on HR, PR, or any other business expense. Alternatively, if the charitable donation really has nothing to do with what the company does and accrues literally no benefit to the company (beyond an “incidental” halo of goodwill), then it isn’t deductible as a business expense but it is deductible as a charitable donation – but it all has the same impact at the end.

      But OP, the reason I say a corporate foundation doesn’t come into play here is because the IRS would totally consider this to be a donation that has business benefit to the company and therefore couldn’t be made through a company foundation – so don’t feel bad accepting it! (And really, don’t feel bad anyway because it’s a wonderful gesture that they’re making with their eyes open.) As someone else pointed out, the cost of replacing you may well be comparable to the cost of this donation (and would have the same tax treatment as that HR expense), without all the other benefits I and others mentioned above.

  9. danr

    You may not be “jumping the line”, since there may be many lines, and your situation fits one of them.

    1. Ro

      I agree. Most of these types of service organizations are funded (in part) by donations anyway so it’s possible there is no line to “jump”. And, there are many organizations that routinely provide service animals either free of charge or with a very nominal fee to people who desperately need one such as service men and women who have PTSD or have a physical disability (wounded warriors), the visually impaired, etc. The cost to raise and train these animals is considerable and if they can, organizations won’t charge deserving people if they don’t have to. So don’t give this another thought.

      Your company is doing a wonderful thing (off-setting the personal cost you, paying for the service animal in full which in turn probably means another deserving person might get their animal sooner, AND helping you to live your life and do your work even better).

      This is a great thing and you are deserving of it. Best of luck with your new friend/helper in life!

    2. snuck

      The local organisations in Australia don’t really have lines… they have individuals… and they fit individual dogs to individual people…. it’s best fit, not first in, within reason (*I know this contradicts what I say above, but there is an element of “you’ve been waiting twice as long as everyone else so we’ll try to fit you first” and my wait is tempered with the fact that I’ve done a LOT of work with the program helping them to understand needs etc), there’s some kind of priority matrix they have that looks at more than how long a person has been waiting.

      And it’s not jumping a line if you are paying for a service – albeit it as a sponsorship/donation – you are still effectively privately buying the service… which most organisations offer the option of – because the rewards are there for them.

  10. Rusty Shackelford

    Don’t think of it as “jumping the line.” Think of it as someone buying a dog for you, which means the organization is able to give a (free? is that how it works?) dog to the next person.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Yes that’s exactly how it works!

      And it won’t just be one dog, it will be a lot — it’s a huge organization, so they graduate about 700 service dogs a year. They’re a non-profit and almost entirely donation-based, so there will be a lot of pressure on my company to continue donating annually, and I am very happy to use my powers for good and agree with that pressure. ;)

  11. Employment Lawyer

    As for the arrangement: I agree you should do it–they clearly want you to. (they may be nice, but also may be wise: if a dog means they can avoid other ADA accommodations, it may be much cheaper for them.)

    But it’s not unwise to make sure everyone is on the same page: “I love working here and hope to retire here. I would love to accept this offer. But I can’t afford to pay for a dog now; I can’t afford to repay you for one if I ever leave for any reason; and I can’t agree to give back a dog once I have grown to rely on it. Is this in the nature of a permanent gift? If not, I am a bit worried.”

    As for “jumping the line” I’ll take an educated guess: People who pay full price are probably a large reason they are able to provide service dogs for poor folks at all (albeit with a wait.) Don’t feel guilty.

    1. Meg Murry

      In addition to the cost of the dog potentially being less than other ADA accommodations, it may also be cheaper in the long run than paying for OP’s long term disability (either directly if they are self insured, or indirectly with a higher rate for future long term disability costs).

      And I also agree with the “jumping the line” comment. I don’t think it’s a situation where they train 100 dogs per year, and by you paying now only 99 other people get to have a dog. I think it’s a situation where the cost of training a dog is X, and they only have enough donations and volunteers to train 100 dogs per year. By you paying, they will instead still be training 100 dogs per year for the people on the list, and your dog is in addition to those 100 since his/her costs will be covered (and possibly might make it so they can train more than the initial 100 they planned on).

    2. OP Dog-To-Be

      Absolutely, and yes — they’re both nice AND wise, although I doubt the wise part was talking when they realized we could get around the dog ban in the office, hah. It will be good to point out, though.

      I think they’d be mortified if anyone brought up the idea of “giving the dog back”. Honestly, I foresee a bigger problem with the number of people who are going to want to be involved with play breaks as there’s a huge park right behind the office.

      I’ve been on the waiting list for a service dog for over a year, but it can be up to a five-year wait depending on your location and the nature of your disability. But it’s all free for everyone, which is wonderful.

  12. TMA

    “I basically want to be told I’m overthinking this, to say yes, thank my lucky stars, and work my little heart out for them because they’re not just going to give me a chance to have my career back, but my whole life back, and it’s making me kinda teary.”

    You’re overthinking this. Say yes. Thank your lucky stars and work your little heart out. And feel free to be teary :) Good luck!

    1. AMG

      I have to say, it makes me a bit teary to think of someone with a long-term illness getting their life and independence back. With my husband’s illness, I hope and pray he will get to do the same someday. It gives me hope, in a weird way. Congratulations to you–I hope it all goes exceedingly well. <3

      1. OP Dog-To-Be

        I hope so too for your husband, so much! When my rehab therapist mentioned a service dog three years ago I went “Wow I’d like a dog but nah, it couldn’t work” and yet that’s percolated long enough I applied over a year ago and was accepted onto the waiting list, and now… my dog. MY dog.

        I mean, assisted housing is also a 5-7 year wait and I’m on that list too, just in case I can’t return to work, because housing in the city is obscenely expensive. Disability covers my meds and some of my living expenses, but not all of my doctor visits, and things I do like buying groceries online is a little more expensive than if I could go to the store reliably. I can manage to pay the “disability tax” on some things, but others are just out of reach right now. I’m really fortunate that public transit is super reliable and that I have friends and family in the area that can help, but I also have a really hard time asking for help, even if it means I’ll spend the next day in bed recovering from a simple errand.

        Having someone with me all the time, who will tell me “Hey, slow down, take a break”, is going to be amazing, especially if I can pretend the break is for my dog’s sake. :)

    2. snuck

      I’m quite, nah… definitely teary at the thought of getting a service dog for my son too. I feel very similar to you, oh so very similar. I understand, I’m with you, it’s an overwhelming emotion for me too.

  13. Laura

    Agree with all here, do say yes, and get your dog, and enjoy regaining access to so many things! And I’d one thing to Alison’s advice–“Go get your dog…and once you do, send her an update and photo of the dog to share with us if you’re comfortable with it!”

  14. Kyrielle

    I’m teary over here. Congratulations on having a wonderful employer. Taking care as others (more pragmatic than I!) have advised, to be sure you’re on the same page, accept their generous offer and take back your life.

    And, re any possible guilty feelings, several points I’d like to add:

    You want to work there, you intend to work there and stay there, and you don’t intend to take the dog and run. You are acting in good faith.

    Given the oft-quoted stats about replacing an employee, the cost of replacing you – before even discussing the risk of getting a new hire that wasn’t as good – would almost certainly outstrip the cost of this donation, and that’s before considering the tax writeoff or the fact that they may have a budget just for donations that they can draw on.

    And the organization that provides the dog will gain the cost of another dog, and will gain a connection to a company that may give more again in the future – breaking even on the first go, and possibly coming out ahead in the long term.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Hee, take the dog and run. It’d be more of a hobble, but yes.

      Thank you for all of this, though, that does help a lot. I do know in my heart that my company loves me and wants me there for who I am, but it also helps remembering that I bring 15+ years of experience to the table, a huge network, and I code in languages they don’t teach anymore but we still use.

      Plus if I give talks at conferences, I’m going to have my dog there, which is basically all anyone will want to talk about if I know my audience. Since they have to wear the snazzy vest that says what organization they came from, I’ll be walking PR in an area that’s seriously lacking in disability experience and understanding.

  15. Mimmy

    Please, please seriously consider taking advantage of this – your employer is offering to put up the money, and the service dog agency seems to be willing to go with this arrangement. I’m studying disability now, and with all the horror stories I read about, both empirically and anecdotally, it is refreshing to see this level of willingness to make the accommodation happen so that you can live and work independently and feel secure about it.

    As Alison says, go get your dog!

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Oh my gosh, I know from stories and support groups it’s not going to be any picnic — despite all the laws, a month doesn’t go by that I don’t hear of someone being denied access to a restaurant/taxi/whatever because of their service dog in this city, and I’m in an area of refurbished old warehouses and plants, so accessibility wasn’t exactly on their minds when they built them 50+ years ago. I’m lucky my office is only on the second floor, but stairs are a huge problem for me.

      1. Coelura

        Op – I have a service dog and have had since 2009. We’ve traveled to over five countries and 40 states. For a long while, my job was 80-100% travel. My disability is quite visible at times and not so much so at others. Overall, the experience has been excellent. My biggest issue was with a large employer that decided the benefit my dog provided me was less than the problem she caused someone on the same floor who had severe dog allergies since I only had problems with mobility. So they insisted that I allow someone to help me get to my desk & then to move from it as little as possible! You are very fortunate to have such a supportive employer!

        1. OP Dog-To-Be

          Oh my goodness, this is so heartening to hear! I used to travel a fair bit internationally for my job and figured that the logistics of doing so with a service dog might be too much, but if possible I really would like to go back to doing it, because it’s one of the parts of my job I love the most. Even on just a personal level it’s nice to know that something like vacations abroad might be a thing in my future, as they absolutely haven’t been for the last 3-4 years.

          I hope we’re able to accommodate everyone who has any dog fears or allergies, it might be hard as our office is open-plan, but we do have several floors worth of office space. I figure I’ll be at my desk more (if I can teach my dog to pick up printouts I will be GOLDEN, or I can just… ask people ;) ), but there’s room for a dog bed underneath even with all my other equipment, and people can just as easily come to me as I could have gone to them before. Or if they can’t come to me, I can leave my dog for short periods of time and be okay, especially if we move to a conference room or something where I can sit. All desks have combination file cabinet/seats at them too, so basically I can do anything that isn’t a stand-up meeting, and will just… sit because stand-up is just to encourage us not to take more than a few minutes, heh.

  16. AthenaC

    If I may presume to address your broader concern –

    You sound like a very socially concscious person who is aware of all the good things you have going for you, as well as the fact that not everyone has the same advantages.

    We might all agree that, for example, we collectively have a social obligation to create a world where everyone who needs a service animal has access to a service animal. We could also talk about universal access to food, housing, basic healthcare, etc. – but for the moment let’s just focus on the service animal bit.

    You are one of those people that needs a service animal. Allowing your need to go unaddressed simply because other people have no choice and must let their needs go unaddressed doesn’t do anything to further us toward our goal of ensuring universal service animal access. You seem to have a firm grasp on the idea that you’re not entitled to things that other people go without – that’s good! But you going without as well doesn’t help them. So accept the service animal with guilt-free gratitude, and if you are so moved, think about what you could do to help other people have access to their own service animals sooner.

    Good luck!

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Thank you. I just — thank you, so much, for your kind words. And I am honestly really excited about the idea of being able to help out with the organization that provides service dogs, be it as a walking advertisement, through donation of my own time and skills, or the fact that I’m on the board that deals with community outreach at my company. I will use my bias for good!

  17. Prismatic Professional

    Oh thank you! I needed to hear a wonderful story today! :-) I hope you and your new best friend are very happy together! :-) (And I second everyone asking for an update with a picture of the dog if you feel comfortable sending one!)

  18. animaniactoo

    fwiw – re “jumping the line” – actually, you aren’t. What you’re doing is zeroing out your linejumping with this kind of thing.

    The reason for that is that unlike with organ donation where everything has to be a specific kind of match, basically what you need here is somebody who can follow the directions/supervision of an animal trainer, plus possibly a few additional supplies, and an appropriate dog. All of which are easily acquirable, so the additional cost is letting them hire that person, acquire the dog and supplies, and train an additional dog now vs having to wait until they had the budget to take on another one. So you’re giving back the dog that you took out of line at the same time as you took him/her out of the line. And making them available early to the person behind you to boot!

    1. 42

      Definitely! The OP appears to view this as a zero sum situation, and it’s absolutely not.

  19. Jessie

    I don’t think it’s jumping the line if your company gives them the $25,000 to train the dog. I’m assuming the reason there is probably at 3-5 year wait is it that’s the rate of contributions to the nonprofit. If your company is covering that cost, it’s not that you’re getting your dog ahead of someone else: you’re providing them with the funds to train an additional dog.

  20. cjb1

    “Go get your dog!” LOVE IT!

    On a similar note, the company I currently work at donated the remaining $6,000 needed so my best friend could get her service dog. She got a lovely, gray spotted Great Dane named Violet who is pretty much the love of her life and gives her the much needed freedom, security and help she needs.

    Great companies and great people are out there.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Oh my gosh that is amazing. A GREAT DANE?! I’d be in love. I think that might be more dog than I need but you’d better believe I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

      That is such a great story :D

  21. Cool Wheels

    I live in the UK and have a physical disability that means I need various adaptations to be able to do the same work in my job as anyone else doing it. Here we have a government programme that will pay for the cost of these adaptations (and it’s not just physical pieces of equipment, it covers personal assistants, interpreters, taxi fares, etc.). It’s not perfect by any means but for me it’s worked really well. I got a light-weight off-road wheelchair (which I would never have been able afford myself and which is beyond the standard wheelchair provided by the National Health Service) as well as some other equipment I needed.

    If you apply within the first six weeks of starting a new job the government will cover all of the cost (although they will ask the employer if they’re willing to contribute), if you apply after that the employer has to stump up part of the cost if the employer is larger than a certain size (which I think is determined by number of employees).

    I was really reluctant to apply at first because it is taxpayers money paying for my cool new wheelchair. But, you know what? I can do my job properly so I can contribute back to society both through the work I do (helping vulnerable children) and through paying my taxes. I think you should look at it this way with your dog too. You will be able to get back to work and life and contribute to society, and maybe help other people with disabilities who need a dog by donating the organisation that trains them.

    1. eemmzz

      As a UK tax payer your sort of situation is exactly what I want my taxes to go towards. Tax should be for the people, not just a select few, and this is exactly what happened in your scenario. Everyone deserves their independence.

      OP: I’m pretty sure you’ve already been convinced by the lovely people here. I’ll just add that I wish you the best of luck and to please give us an update in the future :)

      1. Elizabeth West

        What you said about taxes going toward this kind of stuff! I’m in the US and I often wonder just what the hell my taxes are paying for. Certainly not for helping people when they need something. :P

    2. Elfie

      If you’re talking about Access to Work, it’s one of the few benefit departments in the UK that actually makes a profit for the government. My husband uses it for, amongst other things, taxi fares to and from work. The money that it costs is offset by the fact that he is working, and therefore paying taxes himself as opposed to claiming benefit money. Plus, it goes to a taxi driver, who also pays his taxes. He has to buy petrol, which is taxed, and he has to buy other things, which are also taxed – the vast proportion of the outlay is actually offset by the contributions to the UK economy that having that money in play does. Or something. I’m not an economist, but I do know that A2W is an amazing organization that allows disabled people to continue working, and allows them to continue to feel useful for longer than they would be able to do so otherwise. My husband feels guilty about the amount of money that gets spent on him, but he shouldn’t, because the economics don’t bear the guilt out, but also because he wants to retain his independence and contribute to society and work for as long as his disability will allow him to do so.

  22. AnotherHRPro

    OP – there are clearly some very good people at your company. Thank you for sharing this story. We often only hear about situations where people feel their “company” (i.e., people/management at their company) are taking advantage of them or treating them wrong.

    You have nothing to feel guilt over. The individuals who decide these types of things at your company are aware of the cost, the risks and the benefits. They value you and your contribution and they want to help you regain some independence. And you are not “cutting the line” as the organization clearly has an established process where when a full donation is given, you receive the service dog sooner.

    Take the dog and thank the leaders in your company. Good luck!

  23. Erika

    This made me tear up a little. I’ve been feeling really undervalued at work lately and I’m so glad to hear that there are places that value their employees like this.

    This is tremendous. Please take it, LW, with no reservations.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Everyone at my workplace has been so incredibly supportive, it’s unbelievable. I’m not kidding when I say I’m theirs for life — and I will be so happily. I was so worried I’d be let go when things first started to crumble because I had to take so much time off, and then even more time off, and then even MORE time off, and they’ve just been there saying “It’s okay, your health is more important to us than your butt in a chair here, get things working for you first, we’ll be here for you”.

  24. Folklorist

    Ugh, after all of the strong contenders for “Worst Boss Ever” award–especially as it concerns health stuff!–this renews my faith a little bit! Congratulations on a great place to work and hopefully regaining your function soon.

  25. Cucumberzucchini

    Didn’t read all comments yet, but if the OP would be open to it, please name the company. They deserve some kudos for this, it’s so sweet and amazing. I’d love to know the company so if I had a reason to, I could make sure to do business with them.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      I really appreciate it but I don’t think I’m comfortable (because I’ll be their only employee with a service dog, so uh super obvious) but the organization we’re working with is Lions Foundation Dog Guides of Canada, their major sponsors are listed on the site, so I can tell you that all of those places are pretty awesome! I’ve actually worked for a couple in the past.

      I totally understand because I like to vote with my wallet, but we’re doing pretty good. I’d much rather give Dog Guides Canada the recognition for being amazing.

  26. Pokebunny

    OP is having a little bit of Impostor Syndrome. :) You’re clearly super valuable, as evidenced by how accommodating they are. It sounds like you feel “guilty” for accepting help, like you are afraid that you may not live up to their expectations, or that they’ll finally find out that you’re a fraud.

    No, you’re not! You’re wonderful, hardworking person with great work ethics, and it shows. If another co-worker were as awesome as you, you already said you would not begrudge them for taking the offer. Turn that compassion onto yourself, and tell yourself that you deserve the dog. You will continue to put on your best work for the company, because that is who you are.

    1. Chameleon

      I’ve said this before about dealing with Imposter Syndrome:

      OP, do you generally believe your company is good at deciding what is in their best interest? Do you usually trust their judgement on what investments in staff are worth their while?

      If so, trust them on this judgement, too. They think you are worth it. Believe them.

    2. OP Dog-To-Be

      Hah, this sounds awfully accurate. Considering MOST of my industry suffers from Impostor Syndrome (to the point where we have regular seminars about it) I’m not super surprised. It’s what comes from people telling you “That’s not a real job!” for 10 years, then suddenly it is a real job and you’re working with a team of 800 people to make a billion-dollar project happen.

      I mean, I see Disney movies for myself, occasionally buy plastic dinosaurs, and make the very mature decision to eat cake for breakfast once in a while. I’m just waiting for the Adult Police to come along and find out I’m operating without a license.

      1. Chameleon

        I once asked my 65-year-old mother what age she started feeling like an adult. Her response was, “I don’t.”

        1. OP Dog-To-Be

          I have taken to heart that dinosaurs were just really big chickens, so being a grown-up is just being a really big kid.

      2. CM

        Come on, OP — PIE for breakfast, not cake!
        Enjoy your dog and thanks for sharing your happy story.

  27. TootsNYC

    I want to nominate this company for Best Manager of the Year.

    (and then maybe we’ll hear more stories like this?)

    1. Nova Terra

      Unfortunately, I don’t think Good Managers lend so well to advice columns–in most cases, the employees aren’t really asking for advice. :)

      But they’d be a nice recurring thing for the Friday Open Thread, if that can be a thing.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I know you’re joking, but because this comes up from time to time — I’ll basically never do a best manager of the year thing because we never really know enough about the situation. Someone could be awesome in X way, but also a horrible micromanager or breaking all kinds of labor laws or sexually harassing an employee or whatever. (To be clear, I’m not saying any of that about the OP’s company! Just pointing out there’s never enough info to know.) So I’m too wary of giving an official stamp of approval to someone I just read about in a letter.

      (For the same reason, I’m always highly skeptical when someone says “I’d hire you in a second!” to a fellow commenter here. We only get a piece of people and employers here!)

          1. Kyrielle

            Oh, yes, please! I saw your point about “best manager” and was saddened because I do like the idea of celebrating these – happiest letter would be awesome. :)

        1. LQ

          I really like this idea. Especially at the end of the year when there are the update posts and a lot of them are like well not much got better but I got a new job so that’s better. And then we vote on the worsts. But a “Hey remember this AWESOME THING” would be a nice warm fuzzy.

      1. wondering

        But doesn’t the site go off the employee’s word of bad behavior? (or their word in all things, ideally) Can you explain further why you apply a different filter to them? Thanks!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Because saying “you are doing this one specific thing really well” is different than saying “you are a great manager.” The former is something I feel reasonably confident saying from some letters, but the latter requires more information than I have.

          When it comes to bad behavior though, some things are awful enough that it doesn’t matter what the manager might be good at. You could be incredible at, say, giving feedback and setting clear expectations, but if you’re showing up at your employee’s chemo treatments (see yesterday’s post), that’s outrageous enough that the horrible manager label is earned.

          1. Chinook

            “Because saying “you are doing this one specific thing really well” is different than saying “you are a great manager.” The former is something I feel reasonably confident saying from some letters, but the latter requires more information than I have. ”

            You are completely correct. Passing judgment on how bad someone is much easier than passing judgment on how good they are. No amount of good can cancel out the bad but a little bid of very bad can cancel out the good. It is why the Catholic Church has someone who tries to dig up dirt on anyone considered a saint – you don’t want to hold someone up as a role model who might have one dirty but well hidden secret. But judging whether or not an incident/letter is happy or heartwarming is much easier. Even if the boss ends up the next day holding her entire staff hostage until they literally cough up a lung (for donation), nothing will change the impact of her putting in place the ability for the OP to get her dog. A good act will always be a good act.

      2. OP Dog-To-Be

        Honestly, this made me laugh because while I love my manager completely, she will never win a Manager Of The Year award because she has pretty frequent meltdowns that have resulted in years of very, very nervous employees. She’s amazing, she’s the best manager I’ve ever had, and she terrifies some of the people who work with her. But if I had to trust someone with my life, she’s the first person I’d call.

  28. Robbenmel

    Add me to the teary-eyed group! In addition to all the other reasons commenters here have pointed out that this is a Very Good Thing, think about this: because AwesomeCo is doing this for you, other employers may follow their lead in going above and beyond for their employees. There is no way this is not a win-win-win (you-AwesomeC0-future employees in need).

    Yeah, go get your dog.

  29. Paige Turner

    ITA with all of the above encouragement and well wishes to you, OP. If you have a chance, I’d like to recommend you pick up the book The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Take the donut, OP :)

  30. PlainJane

    This letter made my day. A self-aware, socially-conscious letter-writer, a wonderful company that takes care of its own… yes. Now why is my screen blurry?

  31. Kathleen

    When I had my accident 19 years ago, my company paid for an adaptive equipment that was too expensive for me to pay for myself, and I made too much money to qualify for assistance from my state’s Vocational Rehab agency. I did not say anything to my manager, but someone must have noticed and did their research, because my VP called me into his office and quietly told me they would pay for the equipment. To say I was floored is an understatement. I am still working for this same company and they are still one of the best to work for.

    So, as Allison said, go get your dog. Look at it this way – the service dog will enable to not just perform your job well; it will enhance your life. That’s a win-win for everyone.

    1. AF

      One more thing, OP – when you get your dog, you’re also a great advertisement for the organization within the community, which has exponentially beneficial effects for them and their other potential clients. You could “donate” by telling your story through speaking engagements (if you feel comfortable), helping them do community outreach, etc. Testimonials from clients who have been helped are one of the best fundraising tools. Please keep us updated when you get your dog!

  32. Cafe au Lait

    For anyone who wants to read lovely stories about service dogs, I suggest you check out Susannah Charleson’s books: The Scent of the Missing and Possibility Dogs. (http://susannahcharleson.com/)

    Ms. Charleson is part of a search and rescue group in Texas. “Scent of the Missing” follows her as she brings home and trains her search dog, Puzzle.

    “Possibility Dogs” is about rescuing a starved, neglected puppy that she trains as a service dog.

    They’re good books, highly recommended.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      I want to second how good those books are, and my awe for search and rescue teams in general. It’s incredible. I wish so hard I was physically capable of doing that.

  33. Cas

    I’m so happy I got to read this. You seem like a very good person and I wish you all the best in life!

  34. OP Dog-To-Be

    “Go get your dog”. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

    Thank you so, so much. It’s hard for me to feel like I have a proper touchstone sometimes because my life has changed so drastically in the last few years, so I’m still adjusting to my new “normal” and feel like my judgement calls might be off for a while. They are when it’s about things like my body and my ability to do x things, which is how I’ve wound up on the waiting list in the first place — one of the things the dogs are able to do is give me that external check of “Hey, you are getting tired, you have to stop/take a break/get out of this situation”. Work isn’t the issue here as much, it’s just the rest of my life, but it will be really comforting to have a wet nose nudge from under my desk if I’m too focused on my work to notice I need to stop.

    Regarding legalities, I’ll definitely talk this through with folks. I wouldn’t accept something like this with an email, this is a full HR + my manager + whoever else meeting, so it’ll definitely involve some paperwork. It would be a charitable donation (and yes, we do have a large budget for that, I’d totally forgotten) to an organization that trains service dogs, and the service dogs are provided to the people who need them for free — they work entirely on donations. So the dog belongs to the organization, and the organization doesn’t answer to my company (my company will actually answer to the organization because we have to do a work safety assessment and several weeks of a trial period to ensure it’s safe for the dog!). Our government actually provides a stipend for service dogs to cover food and basic needs, and a lot of vets in the area provide free or discounted veterinary care. So even if someone can’t work, the dog’s needs are covered separately and don’t come out of that person’s own pocket. It’s a seriously amazing program.

    I was a dog trainer in a past life, so I totally agree with people about donating to them! In this case I will likely donate time, and once I have my dog (MY DOG!) I’ll be able to spend time with younger dogs in training. I don’t think I can foster a puppy, but that is something that they have people do! It’s hard, but a friend of mine fosters puppies meant to be guide dogs and while it breaks her heart at the end of each year, she gets lifetime updates from the people they help.

    Thank you so much, Alison and everyone. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Of course I will send updates (and pictures?)! Even if this were to go through tomorrow I don’t know when I will actually get my dog as they’re in various stages of training, and because I live downtown in a big city they have to pass a lot of extra requirements regarding traffic, transit and high-density pedestrian areas. But I will let you know, and I can’t stop smiling.

    1. 42

      YYYYAAAAAY!!!!!!! You sound 1000x more confident in accepting this, and now I can’t stop smiling either!

      1. OP Dog-To-Be

        I really just needed permission from an outside source. No one at any point in all of this has said “You know maybe this is a bad idea”, and my doctors, my therapist, my friends and family, co-workers and company are all saying YES DO IT, I just want this so badly and have for so long it’s hard to realize it might happen in the next 6-8 months instead of several years from now.

        I’m worried about not being able to keep up with work, but I’m getting a lot better about accepting my limitations and figuring out more of what I CAN do now than I was 3 years ago, so even if I can’t go back to my original role full-time, there is PLENTY that I can do that will be positively contributing without having to do ALL the things.

        Or as my manager said, I’ve been giving 110% for 6 years, I’m allowed to figure out whatever my new 100% looks like.

        1. Rubyrose

          I’ve been through having to adapt to a ‘new normal” twice. Once was facing that I would be wearing a leg brace the rest of my life. The other was going on total disability for a psych issue that I had absolutely no idea if I would ever overcome. That adaptation, as you know, is in many ways a never ending process. Just when you think you have reached acceptance, something happens (either subtle or dramatic) that changes the status quo.
          Grab onto every support you can and use them as the building blocks for the life that will be different than before but can be just as fulfilling. From your attitude and spirit I can tell I’m speaking to the choir here. Sometimes one just needs to know that others have traveled down the same road. You are not alone.
          You don’t know what can happen long term. For me, a surgical technique was developed that allowed me to ditch the brace after 25 years. I still limp, but it does not bother me. After 5 years of therapy I was able to get past the psych issues and go back to work. I still need some support, but no one at work has any idea of my pasr. I did have to change my focus. I had been a developer and after being out for 5 years I was deemed to have lost my technical skills and was not able to be retrained/refreshed (stupidity on their part). I became a business analyst and am happier than i was as a developer. There are happy endings.
          So go get your dog and give it a hug for all of us!

    2. Rezia

      First time posting on AAM just to say that I’m so happy for you. Go get your dog indeed! You deserve it and more.

    3. Shark Lady

      Somebody must be chopping onions in here. :’D I’m so so SO happy for you! Go get your dog!

    4. Sydney

      Yes to the pictures! I’m excited for you because I know your quality of life will be better.

    5. SH

      I, too, am crying at work over this post. I’ve had roommates over the last few years with dogs and cats and they bring so much joy to everyone.

    6. JayemGriffin

      If there’s anything at all that could possibly make this letter better, it’s definitely dog pictures. I’m so happy for you, OP, and for your future best friend :)

  35. Tuckerman

    I think we’d all love an update on this letter!
    It sounds like your company benefits from having you there. The dog investment could actually be a smart financial move on their part. For example, if they’re relying on contracted employees ($$$) to handle some of your current projects, the dog investment might pay for itself fairly quickly.
    It also sounds like with your dog training background you’re an excellent candidate for a service dog. Good luck!

  36. Argh!

    When you’re back on the clock you will find ways to pay it forward. You don’t see them now but you’ll see those opportunities pop up, so don’t feel guilty. Give your dog a scratch behind the ear for me!

  37. The IT Manager

    Another thing to ease your mind is that while $25k is a lot to individuals, it is often a drop in the bucket for a company.

  38. Elder Dog

    I know a bit about disabled people getting service dogs. $25,000 is a high price. Most disabled people can’t afford to pay such a price. Usually there’s fund raiser after fund raiser, church groups helping out, bake sales, all kinds of fund raising.

    By letting your employer donate the cost of the dog to the organization, you get a dog sooner, and people who would donate to your getting a dog can put their money to work for somebody else. It’s a huge win all the way around.

    Take the dog!

  39. VideogamePrincess

    This is one of the sweetest things I’ve heard all year! Please, let’s set up a “Best boss of the year” award as well.

  40. Former Computer Professional

    Please let me add to the chorus of “Do it! Do it! Do it!”

    There are so many employers out there that find ways to get rid of disabled employees because it’s “too much of a bother” or the (false) misperception that the disabled drive up health care costs.

    It’s refreshing to see an employer willing to not only work with someone with disabilities but willing -and able- to do something to help them.

  41. stevenz

    It makes me feel good to know that there is at least *one* company out there that is caring, generous and values their employees. It puts a small dent in my cynicism about the corporate world. Despite your disabilities, if anything can be apart from that, you are blessed. But I have a feeling they are, too.

    Woof!

  42. Anon involved with service dog org

    As someone involved with a non-profit that trains and places service dogs:

    We need donations and visibility to train more dogs. I’m sure whatever system of placing dogs they do takes into account what makes it a win-win to expedite SOME placement in exchange for certain kinds of donations and sponsorships. It’s not really the case that they are buying you the dog, because the org isn’t in the business of SELLING the dogs and not anyone can show up with $ and get a service dog. If they believe you and your situation with your employer warrants working things out, then you ARE being deemed uniquely able to represent the org, your company and partnering with service dogs more generally. It’s about being a good ambassador, not how important your job is. Everything you’ve written here confirms that.

    The long waitlists make it seem like getting a service dog is a specific line or queue. However, not every dog trained is a good match for the individual needs of each person with a disability waiting for a dog. So while you may be getting a dog faster than you otherwise would, it’s not really like there is a person who is #1 on the wait that now doesn’t get the dog or becomes #2.There is more nuance to it.

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Thank you so much for this, it’s incredibly kind and also super important. Thank you for what you do, too! I had to apply in the first place and that required documentation from my doctors and therapist that I was at a point in my treatment where we had done all we could, which is required to even qualify — the waiting list totally isn’t just a list, and it really depends on which categories of service dogs are being trained at the time and whose lives and personalities they mesh with. There is a bigger training pool for say, Guide Dogs than for different mobility assist dogs (and I’m 100% okay with that because there’s a bigger need!).

      I won’t even know, necessarily, who my dog will be until after the training camp and work trial. I feel like it could be sort of heartbreaking to have one dog for training camp and be given another afterwards, but it’s for all the right reasons.

      For all we say “my dog”, they will never be “mine”, they will belong to the organization until retirement. They will be my partner, though, and my friend, and my freedom, and that’s more than enough for me.

      It’s the same as my assisted housing application. I’m on a wait list, but there’s a lot more to it than the next apartment that has a vacancy. I have some say in it, but more importantly, people who don’t have reliable housing are going to take priority, and again, I am super okay with that. It means things are working as they should.

  43. Sara M

    OP–My husband’s former co-worker had a service dog. As you know, the level of responsibility for a service dog varies a lot. A guide dog for the blind is always at work; others have a mix of work and play. Sometimes dogs who fail out of blind-training or police-training work very well as “part-time” service dogs.

    This dog helped his human with severe hypoglycemia. She could collapse very quickly and not notice it come on. He had to signal when she needed to eat something.

    However, he could also smell when she was fine, and know she would be fine for 30 minutes at least. And then he’d wander around the office getting petted by the co-workers. He was like a part-time office dog and everyone loved him. (No dog allergies, small office, and if there’d been an allergy they could have moved to another wing.) He always came back to his human to make sure she was okay.

    My point is: if your dog is more part-time than a guide dog, your co-workers and your office may be in for a treat too. :)

    Happy dogging!

    1. OP Dog-To-Be

      Thank you so much! That sounds pretty fantastic, and I hope people are into that. We have a “no dogs” policy in the office, but I think it’s more because we’d never get anything done if we had dogs to pet all the time than due to allergies. Still, I’ll make sure because it may involve where I’m set up and where my team is set up.

      I do think that I won’t need much assistance while I’m in the office, outside of getting to other levels or conference rooms on the other side of the building, and even then I can manage a fair bit. So social-time would be pretty great for everyone who was interested! At the very least, when it’s nice out I can take my breaks in the park and throw a ball, and the line of volunteer ball-throwers will probably be pretty big too.

      It’s really not work that’s the problem, it’s everything EXCEPT work, which unfortunately takes up the other 2/3 of my life.

      1. Elizabeth West

        And people will get used to having the dog around. And service dogs are generally well-behaved, so it’s not like s/he’ll be peeing all over the TPS reports. ;)

  44. Ellen N.

    To The OP,

    I hope it will make you feel less trepidation about accepting your company’s offer to realize that this is a tax deductible expense for them, therefore the cost to them is appreciably less than the sticker price.

    Also, you’re not really jumping the line. It’s not like an organ donation where there are a limited number of organs. There are as many dogs and trainers as needed. The only thing that’s missing is the money that’s needed to train the dog. This money wouldn’t go to train a dog for someone else if it didn’t go to you.

    Enjoy your dog!

    1. Liz

      I would like an update, and also a picture of the service dog when he or she joins OP. All service dogs are Good Dogs, but I want to be able to waggle my fingers at the screen and tell the picture what a Good Dog it is.

  45. yep yep

    OP Dog-To-Be: you deserve this. you deserve this. you deserve this.

    And think of it this way, your dog will get to meet you this much sooner!

  46. Mena

    Great employer and a great compliment that they want you back!

    And if it makes you feel better, your employer will very likely be able to take this investment as a tax deduction.

    Good luck.

  47. Elizabeth West

    They want to help you. You love working for them. This is a really good combination.

    In the words of your HR department, OP, OMGYESYESYES. :)

    If you’re worried about paybacks, ask. I doubt very seriously they’d want you to, though.

  48. Puffle

    OP, I am so so happy for you! You absolutely 100% deserve this and I’m sure you and your dog will be fabulous together

  49. Jill

    I would suggest that, if you do obtain the dog, and then things change with your health and it looks like you may continue to have challenges working and full speed, keep the lines of communication open. Not to the point where you’re revealing every personal detail about your treatment/prognosis…but about what you are and aren’t able to do, coming up with solutions or workarounds, advising them what kind of commitment away from the office any new setbacks will entail…
    …just to avoid the “we got OP that dog and then out of the blue he/she resigned” It’s the being blindsided after doing something like sponsoring a dog that would cause the resentment. Not a change in your health.

  50. ATXFay

    “Go get your dog” is going to be my new mantra. There is never anything wrong in getting the help you need from a willing party! The key here is not guilting yourself over it. New mantra indeed.

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