...says new kid on the block, Jamie Cook of HEADS UP HOUNDS
What is the name of your DAD/organization? Heads Up Hounds
How long have you been involved with Diabetic Alert Dogs? 2013
When did you begin your journey? We began our journey when a close friend of our family needed a DAD for their son, but was struggling with the idea of paying $20,000 and waiting 1-2 years to get a dog for him. His son was adamant that he would not allow his parents to shell out that kind of money and would manage somehow, although he was quietly struggling greatly being away at college with BG levels fluctuating all over the place. Around this same time, we became connected with a trainer that was assisting us with one of our rescue dogs. He began to tell us about his many years of experience training scent detection dogs for the military, secret service and police. He had also worked training diabetic alert dogs for some families using the methods he had learned in the military and found that he could train alert dogs quite quickly in this manner. My husband and I have many years of experience working with shelters and rescues in various capacities. We started talking with the trainer (Russ) about using rescue dogs along with his methods to put together a program that would allow people like our friends to get DADs more quickly and for a much lower cost. As a result, Heads Up Hounds was born. We also are able to provide great fundraising assistance to those who still needed additional help to acquire these life-saving dogs.
What have been your greatest obstacles? Interestingly, the biggest obstacles right now are just getting all of the administration set up. Like many things in life it is the paperwork and red tape that cause the biggest hassles!
Why do you continue? We continue because we hear story after story after story of parents staying up all night, every night, checking on their T1 kid’s BG levels, stories of parents worried sick now that their kids are heading off to college with no safety net, of teenagers that “just want to be able to go to a sleepover like all my friends”. There is a huge need for these dogs. People feel that the cost puts them out of reach or that it is simply too long of a wait. PLUS we get to save dogs that might otherwise be euthanized in a shelter or free up space in a rescue so that another life can be saved.
How do you feel you are impacting the type 1 community? We are allowing a person to realize that they have options… that these dogs are in reach for anyone who needs them, when they need them. It is also cool to be able to allow people to pick almost any type of dog for their DAD. People with diabetes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and lifestyles…why shouldn’t their dogs be as unique as they are?
Do you feel there can be more done? If so, what would it look like? I would love to see more trainers consider working with shelter and rescue dogs. With so many dogs euthanized in shelters every day in our country, it just seems wrong to be breeding more and more dogs when there are dogs available that have the perfect temperament to do this important work in every community across the country.
What makes your process (or situation) unique/different? We utilize shelter/rescue dogs exclusively. We have a unique training process that allows dogs to be trained more quickly than most traditional programs. Our cost is significantly less than most other DAD training programs.
How are you involved with the families for the lifetime of their DAD? Whope to stay connected with these families for many years to come. We provide access to our trainers for any troubleshooting that might be needed. We are building a community of Heads Up Hound owners on Facebook. People refer us to others in the diabetic community. And, of course, we hope that when it is time for their dog to retire to the life of just a beloved pet, that they will give us the honor of training their next DAD.
Does every applicant that comes to you for a DAD “get in”? Why or why not? Every applicant that understands their responsibility in caring for a dog, continuing the DADs training and is willing to work our program “gets in”. We do require that the recipient and in many cases one member of their family be able to travel to the Omaha-area for a 3-day orientation, bonding time with their new DAD and training in handling, care and on-going maintenance of their DADs training when they return home. If fundraising is required, we assist with ideas and support, but they must be willing to do most of the fundraising “legwork”.
What do you look most for in a dog to do this job? Physically, the dog simply needs to be of an appropriate size (compared to the recipient) and have a relatively long muzzle. The temperament needs to be friendly, alert (but not anxious), basic trainability, and food-motivation. One of the best things about our program is that we get to know the needs and wants of each particular recipient and can then go find a dog that suits them. We are not a one-size fits all organization.
How long can one expect to wait from start to “finish” in being placed with one of your dogs… Does the wait time fluctuate? Why or why not? Obviously, there is some fluctuation depending on how long our list of applicants is and how much capacity we have. From the time we obtain a deposit, we can usually locate a DAD candidate dog in about 2-4 weeks. From the time we take possession of the dog until its training is complete is typically 2-4 months. So, a dog could be ready for delivery to a recipient in as little as 3-6 months total. The number of people waiting with deposits submitted and how quickly the dogs complete their training will determine how quickly we can acquire and begin training the next candidate’s DAD. Because we are not waiting for the dogs grow up and because our overall process is very streamlined, our overall wait time is far less than organizations that breed and use a more traditional approach.
Editor's note: While speaking with Jamie, I learned YES. YOU READ THAT PROPERLY. Jamie and the Heads up Hounds team is very passionate about what is important to the Type 1 community and I am happy to see and hear of all the strides Heads Up Hounds is making to stand tall in this industry.
Location: just outside of Omaha, NE
Available to (locationwide): nationwide
Price Range: $6,500 (plus cost of travel and accomodations during 3-day pick-up)
Website or FB site:HERE to go to their Facebook page and HERE for their Director of Public Relations & Fundraising assistance. Contact JAMIE HERE.