I think I would simply rate 2013 as the year from hell…and wouldn’t be far off in saying so! I am looking forward to saying hello to 2014 with a happy heart, more wise mind and ability to rebound far quicker than I have in the past.
Many changes have taken place. Like Kinzie becoming a little more stable! yay! Homeschooling all 4 of my children, yikes! And finally, us parting ways with the diabetic alert dog company we once faithfully defended. It was full of heartbreak, honest truths staring us in the face and a part of something we couldn’t support knowing what we knew and witnessing what we had witnessed. It was a downward spiral that ended with us landing in a better place conscience clear. Leaving the organization we lost a year of training already paid, we weren’t allowed to transfer the funds to another family to help them meet their financial obligations unless we would sign (essentially what I would call) a gag order. If What I have to say and what I know isn’t the truth, then why do I need to sign a gag order for funds to stay within the same company going towards another family? odd. One day, when I don’t fear trying to be pinned for a law suit of slandering I have a whole lot more to share on this…and the information I have and know. Until them…my last thought there is… Wonder where our unused funds went?
All this leads me to a post I have avoided for quite some time. Taking advantage of people, especially those facing what us living with T1D (or our children living with it) is pretty low. I urge all my T1D readers or parents to do research before they go and get a D.A.D. no matter what company they are thinking about going with. D.A.D companies right now are a hot thing…with track records that vary. Do tough research and ask tough questions (making sure you are getting honest answers). Look at the good, bad and ugly because in the end you do not want your dream crushed. You should be able to ask anything without getting ignored, a harsh comment or receiving answers that blame another party. Is the vision they are selling really the vision they are sending out? Quality…is it even across the board? Has quality increased/improved? How are their trainers qualified? What is their trainer over turn rate? How are the dogs temperament trained? Are the facilities the dogs are bred and kept and trained prior to placement adequate? Does the company listen to its trainers when they plead with them that facilities are not adequate and what they are delivering they aren’t comfortable with? Do they value all team members of the organization or do they freely toss them under the bus to save face? If someone is eager and willing to talk bad about their own employees it probably is how they will treat their families too. Do costs add up? How do they handle issues, concerns and disagreements? are they forceful, blaming or bullying? How do they scent train (or are you actually doing it once the dog is in your home?)? There are really no secrets in the D.A.D world and it isn’t one awesome protocol that creates amazing creatures….trust me. CONTRACTS! Do not pay a single penny before you see any and all contractual agreements and make sure those contracts are without huge concern. Like for us, contract was never mentioned, but I defended it because I so badly wanted the entire dream they sold. I didn’t get the contract until after our dog was paid in full (we actually paid more than the dog was worth for extra costs)…and the contract came when our puppy was delivered. If we didn’t sign our dog would be taken away and our money, all 20k + would be gone. In that situation…I felt I had no other choice. Thank goodness our trainer actually helped us get right to business to create an amazing dog…however this trainer didn’t even stay a year with the organization and left without announcing to families (we went above and beyond in training and used outside resources, paying more money and used every waking moment to train. Creating an amazing creature. At what cost can you or will you be able to do this?).
NEWS FLASH!!! Do not pay 20k for a dog, let alone a puppy. It isn’t worth it and it is unnecessary for the cost to be so high. I have learned the hard way, and would encourage anyone starting out looking into D.A.Ds to become wise on the subject. READ about D.A.Ds, training, expectations, service dog laws, research companies (like every company possible) and don’t get all cozy with fancy words and big promises. You do not have to invest that kind of money to get a working reliable dog. Learn about scent training, all your options and what works for you. If you like paying 20K for a dog without mention of a contract or only receiving a contract after your animal is paid for or weeks before it is paid for, feel free to gamble on the money. Be aware of timid, aggressive or fearful dogs being delivered that WILL NEVER BECOME A FULLY FUNCTIONING SERVICE DOG, you were screwed, that isn’t the making of a sound service dog and if you aren’t trained yourself on how to handle such behaviors it is very unlikely that you will ever progress past this stage…hopefully you do. Night alerts are rarely promised with any company because they cannot be guaranteed with every single dog…it really is individual based. Ask tough questions, speak with FINISHED dogs/handlers who are performing all functions, activities and tasks flawlessly with finished, clear trained alerts. (How many finished dogs are there compared to stated rate of dogs being created and shipped out). Look at certifications companies seek and how they are evaluated (and who is expected to pay for them) and what certification they deem important for ALL of their dogs to receive. KNOW service dog laws and service dog in training laws both ADA and you state. Research their training techniques and make sure you are comfortable with them. Read about puppies, puppy behaviors (because many times, several companies are claiming an alert is actual expected puppy behavior and what you are doing is conditioning your dog to alert when you dog actually didn’t alert it was exhibiting puppy behavior and through repetition and reward you are the one connecting the scent to a specific action. I know this, because I have done it with 4, yes 4 dogs and I am not even a trainer). And if done incorrectly you will get a dog with several ‘untrained’ alerts. A dog doesn’t need to alert by acting out in several ways. Clear concise alerts are key, especially when you (the main handler) aren’t around to recognize them. It was key for Elvis to give clear alerts so Kinzie could be on her own away from me…and if incoherent or too busy to notice, others would notice his two trained alerts…no guess work behind or someone thinking he is acting like a bad dog.
There are companies working hard. There are companies who have waiting lists and certain criteria you need to meet (sometimes, this criteria is pretty important…looking back). Some companies offer more than others. Some cost more than others. But your dog doesn’t need to cost more or the same as a vehicle. There is self-training, getting a scent imprinted pup, working with local trainers, etc. So many options out there. When thinking about pursuing such an obligation, it is key to think with your mind and not your emotions. There isn’t one company that surpasses every other company just because they cost more. I have come across several families happy who all went through different companies. I urge all families to honestly approach this subject with an open mind, concrete research, knowledge for starting out and actual attainable expectations. These are tools to use in the fight against T1D. I hope writing this, I have helped someone make a sound decision, no matter what the decision is and a great amount to think about and take into consideration. No matter what company you choose, whether we differ in opinion or not…in the end as a parent to a T1D child my only hope is those already in the process of training, obtaining or getting a D.A.D all experience success so they too, have another tool to face T1D beast.
I am an open book and honest with my opinions on D.A.Ds in general. I do mind being contacted when I am being contacted just to have dirt. That isn’t why I am posting so if you have questions just for the sake of being nosey or dishing…take a hike. This post is general information I wish I once knew to ask, face and consider when I face the overwhelming road to a D.A.D.
As for us, Elvis is still Elvis. Kicking butt every day. We continue to work with him every waking moment and he continues to work hard for us. We have focused more on positively building his and Kinzie’s relationship (well his and every family members relationship). We have great local resources who focus on positive training, we have worked with her on and off for socialization and working with distraction since Elvis was about 6 months…Learn to seek out local (and reputable) resources, we are very lucky. We are doing it on our own. Finishing him on our own and having fun doing so. It isn’t as scary as I once thought it to be.
** I am not a trainer, just speaking as a mother to a T1D with experience with D.A.Ds, lots of research, real-time intense training working with more than one D.A.D (not profiting from a single one). Information stated may/may not be our experience with our organization we were once with….gotta add this disclaimer. But either way, this information is pretty basic and vital to take into consideration.**
To my readers, have a safe, healthy and happy New Year! (and in ‘Hunger Games’ tibute…when picking a D.A.D company or route to get a D.A.D…’May the odds be ever in your favor!’). The road battling T1D is taxing, long and sometimes hard… But (but being the ‘no no’ word in counseling) it does get better and you get better and life continues as you progress, change and live. Much love to you all.