Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You have permission to get scammed...

Sorry friend. But %*it happens. To the best of us. And when it does...

It kind of hits ya' like this scene in "Grown Ups"

With the growing trend of diabetics seeking the assistance of service animals, dog trainers (certified or not) are rising to the occasion to help! This is wonderful news, except due to our circumstances, we might believe anything if we aren't savvy enough to this "industry"... 

So many organizations have been established now, that some, (with less integrity), know the tricks before we ever could. And like these guys pictured above, they KNOW WHO THEY ARE, sitting in the pool (thinking they are being sneaky), peeing together. Making a mess around OUR KIDS. SHAME ON THAT! It's not my position to cry out names and point.  Only to help educate YOU along the way...
(if only they turned BLUE!)

"DO YOUR RESEARCH", you say? Thanks... oh so not helpful.
  • Your definition of a SCAM may be different than someone else's. 

  1. You may not get a mature/"finished" dog as expected (ps- community, let's rename that "finished dog" nonsense to "prepared", can I get an AMEN?) = "I got scammed."
  2. Your organization does not follow up training after giving you your dog... = "I got scammed."
  3. You did not receive a contract ever, never, no where. = "I got scammed."
  4. Through research you discover nothing really makes any dog trainer more "certified" than the next, and your DADs don't even require registration/certification, NOT EVEN THEIR VESTS!= "I got scammed."
  5. You thought getting a DAD was a certain thing, come to experience it's another... = "I got scammed."
Let me reassure you, there are high functioning, quality organizations that have done ALL OF THE ABOVE, and continue producing DADs and happy clients. They are tooting their horn and have their happy clients singing their praises again and again all over social media.

  • know what kind of DAD you are getting and time frame it's going to take
  • expect to need follow up care and resources for that
  • READ READ READ up on this subject of "diabetic alert dogs" (yes, of course I'm suggesting you peruse my blog! DUH!)
put it all ON PAPER....CONTRACT.

Here are some (randomly organized) MAIN CONSIDERATIONS when wanting a DAD....

  • DOES it matter if the dog comes from a shelter or breeder?
  1. Some believe papers matter, the breeder matters,  or "Scent Imprinting" matters... Does it matter to you?
  1. If you go with an organization, they can charge from 6,000-20,000, depending... (make sure you get a CAP on that cost!)... and they will encourage you to fundraise. (and you CAN!)
  2. Some places are given donated dogs from breeders, etc. and pass that savings on to you and SHOULD be charging you for their expertise or by the hour (if you are hiring a trainer to work with you). You might look at it this way: when the price goes into the thousands and thousands AND SUDDENLY YOU FEEL UNEASY ABOUT IT = scam alert. You will be told good reason, & it's your decision to believe it or not. 
  3. A well established organization has many dogs in their puppy raising program, and are not short handed. With a trainer, if you self raise a puppy, you hand pick (with that trainer) the breed and dog...
  4. There are no "Custom Dogs" to you or your family life. But there are considerations.  A "dog fitting to your diabetic's personality", etc has some desireable factors, but consider that a service dog is trained to serve its purpose. Period. Regardless of you or your circumstance/age/race/religion. How to "get a dog"...
  • CAN YOU HANDLE THE WAIT?! There may be a wait list because of supply and demand issues. 
  1. Dogs in this industry can start very young and can be trained in their first year, but the OBEDIENCE and PUBLIC ACCESS are the main goals of ANY SERVICE DOG their very first year. That's one year down. What to expect...when you're expecting.
  2. Next comes the training in the second year. Consistent scent training.  ARE YOU & your organization prepared for more than one dog as a potential "Furever friend"? Is there an established "back up plan" if you think your dog "breaks"...? What you hoped for over a year (if focusing on ONE dog) just may BOMB and a good trainer knows that possibility. Detach from the emotional aspect, it can totally mess you over! 
  3. Are YOU ready to work, too?  (giving low sugar scent samples, training, etc). TOP 5 reasons DADs turn into expensive pets!
  4. The dogs are "trained to alert to lows AND highs"? Now with these dogs, alerting to highs comes NATURALLY. So the focus is driven for trainers to scent train and reward LOWS in the beginning stages. Consider carefully all the excitement and advertisement over a dog alerting to a high... (there are well known legit trainers that believe in training all THREE ranges...Normal, low and high. So just make sure you are understanding there is significance to training highs, but initial focus REALLY SHOULD BE On LOWS.)
  5. Do you keep hearing terms like "Life Saving Companion"...or "Smells the low blood sugar". RUN or Re-educate your provider. You are your child's life preserver. And these dogs are NOT smelling blood sugar. We don't know exactly what they are smelling, but it is NOT DEFINED. Research rules out Blood Sugar link HERE
WHY DO YOU WANT ONE? If you can't answer this and haven't read these 4 simple points, don't do it!

However you decide to begin or get others involved, BEWARE of going at it like little Miss Veruca Salt here: 

We all know what happened to her


Or you may turn BLUE, too ;) -jk.

Don't forget the basics! HERE's DAD 101

You hate me coz I wrote this. It's ok, you're not alone.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DADs are Dogs, too...

Are you new to the Diabetoc Alert Dog acronym popping up all over the place? -Saying it so casually your friends overhear you say "Johnny needs a DAD"...and they wonder if you're getting a divorce/looking for a new husband? (wink wink)


What are they?

  • A partner for your journey with diabetes
  • A companion for the emotional aspects of every day, good and bad
  • Support tool for the unknown moments your blood sugar may drop out of range:
  • known to catch lows on the drop- i.e. at 120- (why is my DAD alerting?!) then 90 then suddenly you're at 60!
  • Ahead of the technology (like CGMs) -Constant Glucose Monitors (pictured below)

As one Service Dog Organization States...your service dog
 "Is a privilege, NOT A RIGHT!"

What they are not:

  • A glorified pet that never leaves your side
  • a way for you to sleep through the night
  • An extra "parent" (if you are a single mom or dad doing this for your younger aged child, or doing this without the support of your spouse, you will most likely have double the work ahead of you, not LESS because of your service animal...)



Even the TIN MAN knew he was lacking a heart...

To bring a living, breathing, heart beating animal that's TRAINED purpose is to SERVE YOU into your life means DEDICATION. It means serving THEIR needs FIRST so they can meet yours. ;)

(ps, if there were diabetic alert robots, I'd be the first to call dibs, NO shedding OR pooping!)

Which brings me back to the CGM. It's a robotic alert device- BUT IT's NOT FOR EVERYONE. 

Some people swear by them and would never get a dog. Others swear by their dogs and would never wear a CGM. Others do BOTH. It's YOUR diabetes, and it's YOUR D.A.D journey.

Friday, August 23, 2013

All Aboard the DAD Train! You coming?

(Written early 2013, this is some insight to how our story began, and how it progressed. 
Certainly not how it ended...)

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Doesn't this pic above (Angelina Jolie and her entourage) look like a good time?

Well, this weekend our DAD organization has a field trip on a train ride from Riverside to Oceanside!

We're sending our T1 tween on that ride! 
Yes, as in me, my hot hubby, 3 body guards + multiple children from around the globe will NOT accompany him the entire way...

I can't think of a better trip for Sean to go on than with 16+ other experienced TYPE 1 families, plus trainers and Diabetic Alert Service Dogs....

Oh yes, Diabetic Alert Dogs...
Have you been introduced to these animals? Sean was about 4 months into his diagnosis... He was collecting scent samples (when his blood sugar was low he'd collect his scent and seal it for trainers) to help these animals help other kids. 
I had just been diagnosed with an auto-immune illness; battling symptoms for 4yrs so I was overwhelmed mentally and emotionally by all the health crisis between the two of us. However, it warmed my heart to see Sean participate, full knowing we weren't about to bring one home for him. NO WAY. 


while being shown how to collect scent samples...
he was 77, then suddenly dropped to 60-something and the puppy noticed/alerted.

Thankfully we were already in good hands... Sean's dad's best friends cousins monkey...jk. Are you still here...? His dads' best friend since Preschool married a woman who had been training her dog 10+ years ago for mobility service. I remembered this & a conversation she had with me during my own health struggles... She talked about service dogs, and how she would help if my mobility ever got to a difficult point... SO WE TALKED WHEN SEAN GOT DIAGNOSEDand she began helping us find an organization to help...

Months and months I began to facebook search, email strangers personal questions...No really. Skippy straight I did! It was like an "Underworld" at the time...Who were these people? Where did they get their dogs? DO THEY WORK?! A few bold and brave wrote me back...and then, (((gasp))) we became FB friends and we hadn't even MET in PERSON!

I launched Sean's facebook page and friended strangers, photo stalked and uploaded the little I had in order to BEGIN SOMEWHERE... Hadn't even applied, but looking back- we were parked at the train station, for sure.

The following months we went on a FIELD TRIP! Much like the one coming up this weekend...Met dads, DADS, moms, adults, kids and trainers with Type 1, with dogs, etc... And I probably drove them all nuts as I began asking questions and the answers back had us entering the station.

photo courtesy of Frank Wisneski

One mom in particular had battled a health crisis like none other, amidst their families' journey in getting a Diabetic Alert Dog. Her words on the support system she felt from not just the Organization/ trainers, but of the dog, eased my anxieties. I began to see the possibilities rather than the limitations...
A TYPE 1 ADULT shared with me how significant her dog was in her life, able to save her many times from lows she would have otherwise been unaware of...

And in the middle of all this Sean was alerted AGAIN. Another dog just about 10ft away caught a 220 HIGH.

Well shoot, where do we buy our tickets?! It was a done deal, the excitement was there, but the future was still unknown...HOW MUCH?! HOW are we going to DO THIS?! WHEN CAN WE HAVE HIS DOG...
But we boarded the train!

Now many of those friends I cast nets to have began online groups for diabetic alert dog discussions and support in helping others. 
And yes, where there is something amazing, there is also the opposite... So BUYERS BEWARE. IF anything seems to good to be true... it most likely is. Sorry. This industry is famous for it.

PUPPY RAISING a dog yourself (training tools, support system, etc) is yours to consider. IT CAN BE DONE!

* and a "FINISHED DOG" (which means PREPARED mature, public access ready) means you still have training and tasks to maintain in order for it to be successful...(will come from an organization, and some offer "Started Dogs, as a "middle option"....)


                 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$    FUNDRAISING FOR YOUR DOG:   $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
-May have to be another blog topic one day! Visit this page of  
If you are getting a specific breed of dog from a shelter, or a reputable breeder to raise yourself- consider support training, support tools, and the TON OF DEDICATION during those puppy year(s).

For now, wherever you are in the stage of this train ride, please don't forget this is YOUR JOURNEY.
You really need to know, in your own words  WHY do you want a DAD?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Going in Blind

Have you ever been to a horse track...watched "Seabiscuit"? So you know what these are used for! No? Wikipedia says:

Many racehorse trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds. Additionally, blinkers (then usually known as winkers) are commonly seen on driving horses, to keep them from being distracted or spooked, especially on crowded city streets.

Gotta love Wiki- It adds: 

The term, in both "blinker" and "blinder" form is also used metaphorically to refer to people with an overly narrow focus or inability to see the larger picture.

The journey to finding a DAD is never a "race" you don't want to do it quickly- you want to not only take your time, but find the right FIT FOR YOUR family!

How DO you start your research?

1. Online AND IN PERSON. 1a. There's too much at stake to do otherwise. 

2. Get your current friends and family involved. Share your ideas with them! They know you best...

3. Remember- not everything is at it appears (refer to #1)

 (Notre Dame player duped by catfishing...)

4. Keep an open mind when networking and talk to EVERYONE!

5. Remember: Good things come to those who wait. (refer to 1a.)

Heinz 57

6. The DAD community is small enough (yes, still). So while it's super vulnerable to be YOU right now, be careful not to land in a place where it seems like this:

Remember your goals and stay true to who you are and your families' needs through the whole process. 
Would you hire the first painter who quotes you? Get more quotes, then make your decision!
It is VERY hard to seek out help and not want to get involved with the first place that offers it.

If you must... put your OWN BLINDERS on and (as copied above: with words changed in black)
...focus on what is in front of you, encouraging you to pay attention to this process and being smart while involved in it, rather than loosing focus to other distractions.  Additionally, blinkers (then usually known as winkers) are commonly seen on driven parents of T1's, to keep them from being distracted or duped. SO BE SLOW, BE SMART, and GOOD LUCK!

click here for noob tips! DAD searching 101

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting a DAD 101

Quick intro: My name is Anna. I'm a mom on a mission, and just a parent of 13yr old son, Sean, who is type 1 diabetic. We have been "DAD Hunting" since just months after he was diagnosed Jan 31, 2011. At the beginning of DAD hype and interest...
New to the world of Service Dogs and such, we are now rounding 3rd base in the process of making it home with our DAD, but have been "Dummies" (so to speak) along the way! Now that we've wised up ;) here is my $.2, and I hope it helps you along the way in discovering your journey to find a DAD!

Here are some main points of consideration when thinking about a DAD:

*How long have you been managing the diabetes?
- Getting a good grip of this 24/7 disease ensures a good grip on a 24/7 service animal

*Are you managing it well and in good range?
- Contrary to popular belief, persons with GOOD RANGE go hypo-unaware more often than those with less control of their health.

*Are you open about your diabetes? Can you talk to strangers about it or do you hide it?
- Personalities come into play when one has a 24 hour animal by their side in public places. How will they handle the snarls, comments, stares or sincere questions and concerns?

*Are you responsible in other areas of life? 
- Do you have daily structure in and out of your home? At work? How are your grades, chores and/or homework handled? Are you able to wait to do one thing because of the priority of another....(how's your patience level?)

Some things to consider when finding a PLACE that offers dads:

*Can you call the other families who have been placed with their dogs (or just a selected few?) for references?

*How long until you would receive the DAD...? Are there options you get to help decide on, different avenues in which to have a DAD, or just a waiting period in which you are/are not involved...

*When will you receive a contract? Do you apply and interview? Why or why not if yes/no...

*What happens if you change your mind or they change their mind about you? What time frame of notice will be given after being involved...?

*What are the prices and expectations...? These should be answered via phone or email but solidified by contract.

*How are you/they invested in the dog for the lifetime of the dog...can you use other trainers, organizations?

CLICK HERE for Top 20 List of Things "Most Organizations" don't tell you!
These are just SOME of the MANY. Include your $.2 below!

Please READ Why do you want a DAD? Know how to answer this in your own words, for your own situation.

Helpful links: on how important a CONTRACT is
Top 5 reasons DADs turn into expensive pets
How much DADs COST $$$ and how to FUNDRAISE THOUSANDS in Months
The TOP 10 Resources nationwide on DAD info Videos, books, and blogs other than mine included.