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  


  1. Another great article Anna. Sorry you had to have such a negative experience.

  2. Thank you, Lily. I regret the year of time lost to it, but not the education and experience since. -Nor the many relationships gained from my departure! I don't know that the fervor here for this blog and the momentum it has gained would have happened without it!