Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finding an organization: Unplugged.

Think of going into a bakery and asking for "Chocolate chip pie." Not only do you sound silly, but the baker knows it. So you start asking for COOKIES. Maybe you're the curious type to ask how they are made...
Think about it: HOW MANY WAYS can you bake a chocolate chip cookie:
  • There are gluten free ones
  • Organic ones
  • With and without corn syrup
  • Store bought and home-made
  • GRANDMA style...
Just short of an ingredient list, you kind of irritate the baker. They do what they do, and you are just there to consume. So you trust their process or you don't. Period. 

But we aren't talking chocolate chip cookies. We are talking TYPE 1 diabetes in a family dynamic, AND the added responsibility/tool of a service animal for ITS LIFETIME. Maybe you are getting a "mature/finished" dog, or even a puppy! Either way, the SECOND YOU got a picture of what that sweet animal looks like, you are "IN." Parents, just like the first image you had of your baby to look at. CONNECTED.

Moms and dads alongside me here, did you have a "What's that?"-baby? You know the type; pointing and asking EVERYTHING so they may learn...
Well that's me. 

The "cookie" I wanted cost $15,100 and so now let's re-visit the bakery analogy...  the $$ is already in their possession...And the year while we were there, tension was tight, and the air-conditioning blasted so cold it almost felt like we weren't welcome. WHAT DID WE DO? I initiated conversation & listened carefully. We settled the financial mess of it in writing, and moved along.

Jan 2011 our son was diagnosed after nearly loosing his life to Type 1 diabetes. I began sharing his diagnosis, and a friend who had previously told me about mobility dogs (for my own disability) found an organization local to me that was doing DADs...

We waited, we watched. We said no to the option of taking in a puppy of theirs in May when I got diagnosed with Lupus. For 6 months I "did my research" as best able (made FB friends with strangers and sent vulnerable information about our story, started a facebook page for him, even made a website! etc.) At one point I was invited to call DAN WARREN and given his number. I made calls to other trainers I am still friends with. (I was informed of another out of state bakery, but trusted the idea of a local one.)

To further our commitment to learning that year, my husband, son and I attended a weekend conference dedicated to DADs. We had a puppy for one night in our cabin. Then I got severely ill from the altitude and we left a few hours early on the last day.
We applied just before camp and got "accepted" after. A verbal contract gave me the "green light" to begin fundraising and we raised 15,100 between Nov and March. Done. But were told not to stop fundraising...Hmmm.

From there we attended 50% of the organization's events, and never handled a dog again unless we paid to at weekly training we attended once a month. Even tho we were fully funded. No paper contract and no timeline in place or dogs to work with, I had a "sit down" with the owner and based on that conversation sent an email the following morning asking to withdraw from participating any further.

Shock. Betrayed. I'm sure we both felt that way. From there I got back on my networking train and successfully found another local organization to work with. MY SON applied and WROTE his own essay to this new organization, but not until after we had a "sit down" with him and discussed if getting a DAD was even going to be in the cards for us.

He is a responsible, fun, and caring 13yr old who then interviewed on his own, and was complimented highly from this new place.

I emphasize the above because funny enough, (<----not really, insert sarcasm) getting a DAD with the old organization was not a business transaction. "This is not a business" was what I had been told and part of why I left. It was a popularity contest. It felt that way, it acted that way, And I "wasn't in." Nor was my family, and especially not my son. He had never been interviewed, in fact, to DATE he hasn't been acknowledged. "Not a problem", I never thought about that, honestly, until word got back to me "We were going to get rejected anyways." (Similar to rumor I heard before we withdrew.) 15K in your bank account, not mine... and an "Ain't nobody got time for that"- mentality?... Not buying it.
How to raise 15K in 5mo Click HERE!
That sounds like a bad break-up "I didn't love them anyways!" (says the one through tears after being dumped.)
I'm still trying to figure out why it's taking 60 days to reimburse us (send money to our new organization) then BAM, it hits me! It's been another year and the conference is coming again in just a few weeks and they will have the money they must have already spent. That's just an assumption, but I'm willing to write it. Hey, what goes around comes around. Good thing for all, considering there are thousands at stake. (We have an accord for them keeping 10% for the year they "worked with us.")
Update: within a week of this original post, confirmation and timeline were given for final funds to be forwarded to our new non-profit. All was finalized as of 10/13

WHY IS MY DIRTY LAUNDRY OUT?! Because I get why we had "personality conflicts."
I'm a, "What's that?"question-filled adult.
Now I know there are several bakers and several families JUST LIKE US. And investing into something of this MAGNITUDE puts YOUR reputation at stake. You carry credibility and responsibility to those who have come alongside to help you financially. 
What exactly is that supposed to look like? Figure out if you do/don't trust an individual's opinion of their own experience? Yikes. That's not good research. I'm guilty.
Savvy trainers and organizations are doing as they see fit to have accredited dogs, and happy families.
Friends of mine are at my old bakery. Happily. And IT'S NOT my goal to ruin that.
MY GOAL is to find out now, NATIONWIDE, WHO THE BAKER's ARE. Who has happily shopped and found a good COOKIE? (I will feature your team story!)
CLICK AND READ THIS LIST of Top 10 resources for DAD information!
It includes links to a nationwide database of trainers and breeders, articles and FREE videos on how to train your own dog.
I dare say if we pooled together ALL THE DADs PLACED since 2010 until now, there would be a SMALL MARGIN of success stories.
Know your options. Not everyone is going to agree on method of baking or how they should be baked. But the testimonials are out there. And they continue to come in!
If you go the same direction we started:
Make sure you explicitly trust and understand the trainer/organization you are with. Look for the "4 C's":
  1. Credibility 
  2. Competency
  3. Chemistry
  4. Character (takes the longest to get to know, but is most important!)
  5. INTEGRITY (yea, I know I threw that in there!)
Don't get seduced. 
Impressive results do NOT equal character!
Character + skills carry WEIGHT.
Honesty is strength. 

As any good business, there is usually a health code and standards that need to be met. NOT IN THIS INDUSTRY. So it really does come down to your trust and instincts on a place. And VISA VERSA. I just never saw that coming. Not after all the effort financially had been accepted and continually encouraged.

especially if you're
always a good refresher course: Getting a DAD 101
Please don't overlook The TOP 20 Things DAD orgs don't tell you!
Let me know how it goes! Find me on FB in a DAD group of advisors (no organization represented) HERE  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top 20 things (most) organizations don't tell you...

  • This industry is young.
  • To find a successful DAD and handler that has been together over a few years is rare. 
  • There is no regulating what makes a DAD trainer/organization, or DOG legitimate.
  • Dogs do NOT need certification to be in public (tho it is nice to know dogs can pass certain standards, i.e. Public Access test with HANDLER of dog doing the test.) Click here for details on "Public Access Test" and certifications...
  • Most of the certification is "in house" anyways, therefore biased and has no significance to the outside world's requirements- which aren't any.
  • DADs do NOT ALERT 100% of the time. You may have a dog that is 80+, but none is perfect. DADs are dogs, too!
  • NOT ALL DADs night alert. That is a trained behavior (tho some have been known to do it naturally), & takes EXTRA WORK to have a dog alert to night LOWS. 
  • DADs naturally alert to HIGH blood sugar, out of range. That's why training LOWS is what begins the training process.
  • Service dogs need behavior/obedience training, and that is what you are waiting for (if on a list). If you get a puppy, YOU are going to be handling that training, or finding the trainer to assist.
  • Dogs do not "mature" for this kind of ALL PUBLIC access with their training until over 2yrs old.
  • "DEAD IN BED" fears have been debunked by some of the best in the medical field, citing there are had been other unknown factors that contributed to death...
  • Despite health checks at around 1yr of age, dogs may develop issues in the months/years following and you need pet insurance to cover all possibilities. Check out Pet Plan
  • The price of a DAD varies per organization, just like shopping around for the ortho to do your  kid's braces... you can do quick and easy, long and expensive...shelter dog, highly bred dog, scent imprinted, scent introduced later in life. 
  • There is no ONE WAY/ bomb proof technique to get a DAD that is better than most.
  • Non-profits and For-profits are just as legitimate in this business. 
  • Expertise in scent work, obedience, and certificates as trainers is not always "in stock." 
  • Neither is experience with Type 1 DIABETES. 
  • There is no evidence to support WHAT the dog smells, just that it KNOWS there has been a chemical reaction within the body; and upon alerting and rewarding, the dog will repeat the behavior. See Research HERE
  • YOU (the diabetic handler) are the scent work. And your scent, while unique, can still train ANOTHER, successful DAD that doesn't go to you. And your dog may be trained on another scent until yours is introduced.
  • They really might tell you all of this, if you knew to ask!
Are there exceptions to any of this list above? Absolutely. Disagree/Agree or need to add more bullet points? Tell me below in comments!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why do YOU need a SERVICE DOG?

In the United States, the Ammended 2011 Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act states: Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. 

And that's all you need to know! Rather, that's all any other business person or establishment needs to know.

These items do not matter when you are in conflict with an establishment:

  • Whether or not your dog is in a vest 
  • Certification of your service dog
  • If you got your dog from an organization or self trained them.
An establishment, BY LAW is only required (allowed) to ask the following questions
  1. Is your dog a service animal?
  2. What task/s do they perform? 
They are NOT ALLOWED to ask your disability!

Now the "forbidden question"...

What makes diabetes so life-threatening and "Service Dog Worthy?"

Disability is 

defined as “a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long- 

term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day 
Diabetes is now recognised as a disability under the Disability Discrimination 
Act (DDA) 1995/2004.   
The act introduced new laws aimed at ending the discrimination that many 
people with disabilities face, especially in the area of employment. 

Click HERE for Public Access Resource List

WHAT IS TYPE 1 Diabetes?
Simply put, it is an unpreventable, incurable auto-immune disease dependent on insulin hourly in order to live. The part of the pancreas that once worked all this out so the food eaten breaks down properly in the blood, no longer works, so BLOOD SUGAR is a constant, life-threatening issue...

What IS a Diabetic Alert Dog?
A D.A.D is a trained dog raised by professional/experienced and competent handler. This dog is just like any service dog, public access certified, and everything! -Just for a diabetic. They are trained to alert their owner to changes in their blood sugar levels...These dogs go through serious obedience training, fetch and retrieve, etc, so that they can run for juice or for the diabetic's kit when necessary. Link on "Does your DAD need certification?"
How the TWO Connect...

A diabetic alert dog can warn it's handler of their low blood sugar before it gets life threatening. Some are known to begin alerting on the decline, even. Most importantly, the dog MAY alert in the night hours, when blood sugar may rapidly fall drop without correction. This is fatal for diabetics. The dog smells the chemical change in his body and will alert.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Is your DAD a seeing eye dog?"

Yes. This question gets asked. By the public. 
(and there's no Ashton Kutcher around to scream "you just got PUNKED!")
In fact, I even have read from our friend Karen Holmes that after explaining her DAD was a DIABETIC ALERT DOG to a fellow bus rider, they exclaimed, "Oh, a diabetic seeing eye dog!" She politely shook her head in agreement but like me was probably thinking otherwise!

In recent HEADLINER NEWS,a DAD owner/trainer was told by a McDonald's manager "We only allow seeing-eye dogs." go HERE for full story
The History behind "SEEING EYE" dogs...
"The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during World War I, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat, but interest in guide dogs outside of Germany did not become widespread until Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog breeder living in Switzerland, wrote a first-hand account about a guide dog training school in Potsdam, Germany, that was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1927.

Nashville resident Morris Frank returned from Switzerland after being trained with one of Eustis's dogs, a female German shepherd named Buddy. Frank and Buddy embarked on a publicity tour to convince Americans of the abilities of guide dogs, and the need to allow people with guide dogs to access public transportation, hotels, and other areas open to the public. In 1929, Eustis and Frank co-founded The Seeing Eye in Nashville, Tennessee (relocated in 1931 to New Jersey)."

The History behind "Diabetic Alert Dogs" dogs...
... Dogs have been used in the disability community since World War I (see above). We see them partnered with our police task forces, and for Search and Rescue situations (like 9/11).
SOME NATURALLY DRIVEN PET to a Type 1 diabetic, or some trainer, who connected the dots, began fine tuning the diabetic "scent" training with what has always existed; the ABILITY in the right service dog...

If the "public" knew the dangers and life threatening nature of type 1 diabetes, CANINE SUPPORT would make more sense to them.
Because trainers and the alike do not know the EXACT physiological evidence of WHAT the dogs are sensing/smelling, the mystery remains. But the proof is THEY ALERT TO IT. 
I find myself explaining it like this, "These dogs can smell the chemical change in my son's body when his blood sugar goes dangerously out of range."   (Hop on over to ---->What IS a DAD Smelling? -Research reveals...)
what do they need? "EDUCATION!"

who's gonna' give it? "WE ARE!"

I have a DIABETIC ALERT DOG. THANK YOU for asking.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Teen Type 1 and Diabetic Alert Dog Trainer, Zakk!

Meet Zakk Wrabiutza
(pronounced "Rabitza")

  Diabetic Alert Dogs By Zakk

This amazing young man has been along his journey and working with diabetic alert dogs for two years.
I had the pleasure of meeting Zakk's mom, Donna, through an online FB group last year. Both her husband and my family were attending a DAD conference in Southern California. We all ended up in the same breakout session together and got to know one another! Bill (pictured below) is a great guy, and we stood talking one day when he shared Zakk's vision to become a trainer. I said, 

"Wow, wouldn't that be something, the actual kids with these dogs, being the next generation of trainers. That's great."
-and I've been cyber-stalking this amazing kid and his family ever since!
Having caught up with Donna recently, she helped me gather some details to share with you all on how Zakk runs his business. Here were my direct questions and her answers:

Q. What have been your greatest obstacles?
 A. The DAD Industry does not stand as one and is very cliquish

Q. Why do you continue? A. Because we know the true value of what a great DAD can bring to a family

Q. How do you feel you are impacting the type 1 community? A. By offering working DADs with lifetime support

Q. Do you feel there can be more done? If so, what would it look like? A. Bringing awareness to the DAD community
Q. What makes your process (or situation) unique/different? A. Zakk is a Type 1 Diabetic and trains DADs for others

Q. How many dogs have you worked with/placed that you would confidently say are successfully placed? A. Zakk is currently working with three DADs

Q. How are you involved with the families for the lifetime of their DAD? A. Consistent communication with the family helps build a successful DAD team-
Q. Does every applicant that comes to you for a DAD “get in”? Why or why not? A. Every family is not a fit for a DAD, making a successful team requires consistent effort for each family member-

Q. What do you look most for in a dog to do this job? A. Stability, willingness to work, prey driven and wanting to be with a human, typically make a great DAD-

Q. How long can one expect to wait from start to “finish” in being placed with one of your dogs… Does the wait time fluctuate? A. Zakks DADs are typically ready for placement at 8-12 months of age. They are trained for live low scent work, obedience, public access and home manners- the team will go through a training process with Zakk by their side for the life of the DAD-

Location:Anderson, South Carolina
Available to: USA 
Price Range: 4,500-18,000  
Zakk Wrabiutza (864) 314-1804
                                 Successful Placement DAD Team "Maggie and Neveah"
Zakk recently made HEADLINES when an emergency stop to his local McDonald's (from a blood sugar low) landed in a managerial issue because of his service dog. Despite local police officer presence AND advocacy, he was almost asked to leave. Zakk does carry this around in his wallet at all times, but it did not make any difference.

Click here below for story!

ZAKK and ANNIE, his personal DAD.

Watch Annie retrieve a JUICE AND METER KIT!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A mom finds a D.A.D for her daughter...

Meet Brenda Pearlman
Daisy is our 4 year old goldendoodle that alerts for my 11 year old daughter, Laura. She was trained by Scott Smith and came to us 1-1/2 years ago.

We began researching DADs in October 2011, and spoke to several trainers by phone or email. We visited 2 places in person, January 2012.
Our greatest obstacle is having Daisy alert to both myself and to my daughter. I am not type 1, but Daisy prefers to tell me when Laura has a blood sugar issue. She goes to school with Laura, so it is imperative that she alerts to my daughter in my absence. We have to do a lot of extra training to ensure that she will consistently alert my daughter during school.

We continue to work hard at this because I am stubborn! And I have seen the positive impact Daisy has made on my daughter’s diabetes management. I can’t give that up, no matter how much work it involves.

I hope that my openness and willingness to share our experiences with Daisy helps people who are thinking about adding a DAD into their diabetes management, understand what life is really like with one. It’s a tremendous amount of work to maintain the training, your child will have to check their blood sugars much more frequently, and not all DADs will alert in every situation (nights, in a car, etc). 

These dogs are not 100% accurate, they will miss some alerts. I post many things about Daisy on Facebook, and we have done presentations at JDRF functions. I receive calls from people wanting to know about DADs and speak with them openly and honestly. Laura and Daisy are serving as the youth ambassadors for our local ADA’s walk in October where we will have the opportunity to tell more people about DADs. None of this is very impressive, but we hope that it helps others who are beginning their DAD journey.

There are many trainers and many methods of training a DAD. Every trainer is going to have his or her own methods and protocols. I don’t think there is an absolute right or wrong way to train, but I do wish there was more of a standard that DADs would be expected to meet in their mature working state. (I hate the words “started” and “finished” dog). I know that would be next to impossible to enforce due to there being self trained DADs, organization DADs and single trainer DADs. But, I think it would help protect the people who are buying a DAD if there were minimum standards. I also would love to see more research done regarding DAD’s such as what exactly are they smelling.

Editor's Note: Thank you, Brenda, for being there for our community, with an open heart and willingness to share your dedication and love for Laura and Daisy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is your D.A.D "CERTIFIED"...?

    • Below is a conversation thread between me, (Anna Booth, the dummie); and Lily Grace, (the expert), of NIDAD. National Institute of Diabetic Alert Dogs. It focuses on the CGC, (Canine Good Citizen), PAT (Public Access Test) and other "wonders to the world of DAD importance" when searching for what is what in this industry!
    • Thursday
    • Lily Grace
      When shopping for a trainer/organization it is imperative to check out whom ever you are considering. Just belonging to an organization doesn't guarantee they know what they are doing. I am NOT a non-profit 501c3 company. I do however use the PAT (Public Access Test). The test is available to all on the net. I am a member of SDS (Service Dog Schools). The organization is new and is just getting together their own PAT and certification material. I'm very hopeful for this organization. I am PRO mandatory certification of trainers as this is a major benefit and protection to consumers. There are bias to non-profits regarding PAT certification. It's important to keep in mind that there are many great for-profit trainers/companies, as well
    • Anna Booth
      I am hoping to be a part of the rally for laws to be in place- (if that day EVER comes) for service dogs. I read an article suggesting it, and our org is doing the PAT and such standards on their dogs which comforts me for many reasons. Do you agree with any of this?
    • Lily Grace
      I agree with mandatory certification. BUT it must include everyone not just non-profits. There needs to be an independent non biased agency with written standards much like the AKC. I'm not certain what your org specifically uses but I agree PAT (Public Access Test) & SAT (Scent & Alert Test) is crucial.
    • Anna Booth
      SAT---I'd like to know more about that... I know our org is confident in their PAT and how it is accomplished. What is the CGC hype all about? I have inquired through AKC and found out some info, but wonder what it really matters to those with "CGC" dogs. My prior experience with organizations has me asking a lot of questions about "who gives the PAT/how/who can administer, etc". I'd hate to know in the future that families found out they were deceived by who administered their CGC, how their PAT was administered, etc. I'd prefer organizations and trainers figure out the truth and share is bluntly with prospective clients. I am soaking it all in as a learning experience. I'd like to, in all this, know as much, if not more than necessary, so that I can make clear decisions and advocate for what I feel is right. And write about it with see why/where I'm coming from...?
    • Lily Grace
      The SAT and PAT can be administered by anyone. To be certified means nothing. Anyone can say they certify. ADI does certify for their PAT. I test all of our dogs prior to placement - What does that really mean? I certify. Am I biased towards my dogs. Probably. What trainer/company wouldn't be. This is my point. The consumer needs this test and it should be administered with them handling their own dog. If the consumer can read the test and know what the dog is supposed to do, then they'll know if in fact if their dog does posses the skills required. As far as AKC. I too am a CGC evaluator. Again it's kind of a joke. The test is on-line and anyone with an 8th grade reading level could pass. That is not to say that the AKC sanctioned events put on by a club is in the same category. It is not. I train my dogs to AKC CD level. Go to the AKC Obedience site and you can review their standards. I believe all Service Dogs should be able to attain this level of obedience. This is done in front of 2 different judges at two different events. Totally non-biased.
    • Anna Booth
      Very interesting...I see. Sean will be handling his own dog to administer the PAT when he does team training early next year. He will be the handler... Does the CGC carry ANY klout? Do either of the tests in the long run...? The obedience testing with AKC in front of judges- is that something like "rally"? And even if not/so does AKC travel for that or does one go to them for that...
    • Anna Booth
      Also who else offers the PAT or is working on offering it and how does one acquire the SAT?

    • Many companies and trainers offer PAT test. This is nothing new. Again - what does the certification mean, NOTHING perhaps depending on who is certifying the test. If a company certifies their own dogs there most certainly is bias. I am no exception to this. How can we not be. The only way to be certain is for the dog to be tested independent of the trainer and handler. Dogs will pick-up on body language and non-verbal cues of known trainers and handlers thus rendering an impartial test improbable and highly unlikely. SAT testing is again subjective to the same discrepancies as the PAT. So what does this mean for the consumer. Again not too much. The ONLY thing that really matters in the long run is DOES THE DOG WORK FOR THE HANDLER. These test are to be used as a standard upon which a dog training company/trainer can gauge the dogs abilities. I have seen dogs pass these tests with flying colors, only to have limited if any real value to the handler.
      AKC obedience testing is done at different venues across the country. These are sanctioned events put on by AKC registered clubs. The standards are written by the AKC and judged by a certified AKC judge. To receive an obedience title at the Novice level, a handler/trainer must receive a minimum amount of points (150) to qualify for one leg. Total points possible is 200. The team must do this in two different events (legs) to attain a title (CD) and ribbon. Once titled the dog is qualified to advance to the next level. Obedience titles are a little more difficult to attain than a Rally level. A dog that advances through all levels and has earned enough points throughout the competitions will be INVITED to invitational meets and may advance to OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion). I love doing these and find it challenging and a great way to test my skills. I am not competing against other trainers but instead agains an identified standard. What better way to assess my skills.
    • Anna Booth Awesome. I'm inspired! I love that. Thank you for this wealth of info. It's fantastic. You're a gem. Thank you for taking the time with me...

    • Lily Grace
      This would be a great thread for our readers. Would you mind posting it for all? I am asked these questions frequently. Maneuvering through all of the certification jargon can be daunting to those who don't know. That is exactly what some trainers prefer. This way you think you are getting something, BUT it actually means nothing.

      So readers...have you found this information helpful? I hope so! Add your $.2 in comments, thanks!

      And please CLICK HERE for info on WHAT THE LAW says! (how to handle dogs in public vs. establishments)