Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The difference between "started" and "prepared" diabetic alert dogs...

I refuse to say "finished" dogs. The new term (per almighty me) is "prepared"... We (I) also have been known to throw around the description "mature" for these dogs with 2yrs of age in mind, when I've come to find that most handler's don't think (their labs pipe down) until 4yrs of age!

Now with that cleared up: There are a few options on how to go about getting your dog..."IMHE" (In My Humble Experience and observations of the "norm" in this industry...)

1. Puppy scent imprint (or not) and raise them yourself, or with the help of a trainer or service dog organization (note: I did not mention DAD organization specifically- keep your options open!)

  • Obedience training is key this first year. Whoever does it most is who the dog is going to possibly bond and connect with, so parents keep this in mind as you raise pups for your children. Labs and certain breeds are known to "convert" easily from bonding with one person to another...so make sure you are getting good counsel and keep in mind if and when your dog is ready for scent work, that your diabetic NEEDS to be HEAVILY involved...
  • Scent imprinting is adding to the "stacking your deck" theory. Not every dog needs it, nor does it make your experience "fire-proof", yet certain breeds and puppy-temperament testing may include this technique that has not been discredited and is highly controversial.
  • What is puppy-temperament testing? It's how to "pick" a confident, good pup from a litter. Good working lines and papers DO NOT always equal a successful litter of working pups. Again, it's a "stack the cards in your favor" strategy...
2. Leave that first year of work to a DAD org, or a service dog training facility and then receive a "started dog" around any stage of puppy. This would be like missing the infant stage and getting a baby. The sleepless nights and diapers every 2hrs is over, but there is still A LOT of work to be done.
Courtesy of Highland Springs Pet Services (.com)
  • Scent work needs to start at this point, and obedience work must be followed up and carried out. This is not an easy stage in the dog's life to take them on if you do not have full disclosure of what it will mean. Be prepared. Have your follow-up resources in place. TOP 5 Reasons DADs turn into expensive pets...
3. A "prepared dog" may be older and "done" but you are getting a walking toddler. (If they come from a DAD organization). The concepts of past year/s are coming together into a developmental progress that is outstanding, but still has its moments of tumble. DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE thinking an older dog won't require any less of the work as the type mentioned above. You still need to "baby proof" your home and stay diligent to follow through, give consequences, rewards, encouragement and SCENT WORK.  
  • The Super Sniffer: HANDBOOK by Debby Kay is a tool you want to acquire at any stage of the game; but especially now, as you fine tune this dog who has had a bit more time to mature. They aren't quite there yet, but have also had more time to fine tune their public access skills depending on how they were trained.
No matter how you go about this, know that the bond with your dog is most important. 
  • Do you LOVE this dog? Does your kid? 
  • Are you able to send scent and items that help the dog train (if you are doing it from afar)...can you visit in the meantime? 
  • Are there opportunities for you to "preview" an org, or learn their methods before you commit? DOES THE STAGE OF YOUR DOG matter to your family/will it make an impact?
Good luck on your journey, and please comment your experience below! ~ Anna

DAD ORG viewing this? What terminology do you use and define your pups training/obedience benchmarks by?
I have been told by a few orgs since this post their dogs at 12mo+ are "fully" trained, "finished", etc... I'd love to hear more of your feedback since every org is different and defines their expectations to clients differently.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

There's a new "C" word in the diabetic alert dog industry...


  • Get one.
  • Ask for one.
  • Don't give ANY money without one.
  • Don't trust "it's getting revised"...I've heard that TWICE. From legit organizations doing good work.
  • Hearing about one that exists isn't enough.
  • Reading it, but not signing it, (both parties involved) doesn't count.
  • WRITE ONE UP or REVISE one proposed if you MUST!
Ask for your money BACK if you already made even one of the mistakes above... It's simple.
  • Call your org head/owner to set up a meeting in person if possible. Face to face says a lot. Listen well if you get the chance...and if you don't get the chance: (or even if you do and are still on the same path...)
  • Email/write your formal withdraw request. Give an anticipated timeline for being refunded.
  • Do everything in writing for legal reasons
  • Lawyer up if needed. No one can hold your money hostage, especially without a contract. (You raised thousands, and it'll only take hundreds to handle this for you legitimately and legally).
  • VERBAL intent, trust built from phone calls and emails, patience, and "the waiting game" are NOT EASY, and NOT good enough for MOST consumers; so ORGANIZATIONS TAKE NOTE:
  1. Do not take a dime without written consent of intention of money and timeline of purpose.
  2. KEEP YOUR CLIENTS INFORMED! Newsletters, email updates, pictures and testimonials go a long way for someone who has given you thousands of dollars collected by their close family and friends.
  3. Remember that they are accountable to donors. It's not just THEM bothering you for information, a timeline, bench marks to understand this process, or photos. It's THEIR community of support that is asking THEM. And they only have you to turn to!
  4. Clients that have the boundaries and understanding of written word will be happier to do business with you during the waiting game. And if they sign it, they are bound to it. SO what harm is there requiring one SIGNED for yourselves? 

When a consumer thinks: "What if I agreed, and am changing my mind about an organization?"
  • How did you agree? Is it just "an understanding" because your FB best friend knows this place and had a great experience?
  • Have you been visiting and getting involved with the organization for so long that empty promises of "a contract that being revised is coming or unnecessary...?"
  • Did you ACTUALLY SIGN something and now you are unsure? (again, lawyer up; firms familiar with non-profit business law are out there)
  1. Losing your money?
  2. Losing your reputation?
  3. The FB community being against you?
  4. Upsetting friends and the support you've grown to know along this journey?
  5. What may happen if you speak out?
VALID CONCERNS...for any consumer AND organization owner.

So BEGIN clearly and honestly. Signatures equal money, which produce dog, which produces DAD.
Money without signatures equals ignorant but honest BAD MOVE (may as well send me thousands!), no promise, and no DAD. Follow that logic. 
  • 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.
if you don't, You have PERMISSION TO GET SCAMMED. (resource)

WHEN YOU FUNDRAISE, keep a personal account of every PENNY donated. If I can keep track of $15,100, you can too. We had a break down of EVERY DOLLAR (which was sent by email to the org head and book-keeper once our goal was reached). This is your safe-guard, in the event money needs to go back to DONORS instead of forwarded to the next non-profit/organization...Donors will handle their write-off and tax issues. That's not your job. Your job is to decide if the money goes back to donors or to another organization/trainer and communicate that. Period.

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. 

Advised reading for the newcomer: Top 20 things (most) organizations don't tell you!
"Do your research..." (ps- most annoying well intended piece of advice EVER)

Consider joining a FB group of organization heads that play nice, and folks just like you that won't lead you in the same direction of circle referrals time after time. We allow you to advertise 1x every 10 days as an org, and advise as long as you are pleasant.
Diabetic Alert Dog Advice

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What cake pops, 90210, and DADs have in common....

You think what you see is what you're going to get.

Back in 2011 I sat among friends at a conference for D.A.D handlers and on-lookers. As the lunch hour began to clear out, one woman in particular had my interest. Her son is just a bit older than mine, and they were finally hanging out. I picked her brain on what it meant to have a DAD, since they had theirs over a year and we were just "observers" that weekend.

This clever mom mentioned something very REAL and enlightening. She had been asked to speak to a group of women about her son's DAD, and said (in paraphrase), "I spoke about the romanticism of it. How it looks versus how it is...." How real is that? I appreciated the insight and rest of her perspective. What I thought I knew of her, and saw of their DAD experience was forever changed. 

If you've been following my blog, you know I operated a successful "cake-poppery" for over a year. I made cartoon, event themed, delicious home-made creations and flavors that...well, would blow your mind. It was a lot of fun. Always busy, always delivering on EVERY order. The FOOD NETWORK producers invited us to audition for "Cupcake Wars." 

Many friends saw what I was doing, got inspired and bought the kit to "DIY" for their own events. One by one, I'd receive a "should have just ordered from you", message. 
I never knew what I was capable of until it got going and I got inspired. My fee was less than if anyone were to buy all the stuff and try it themselves. And it always turned out better than any of us could have imagined. So I opened up to orders and saw myself as providing a unique service...Until one day I couldn't. 

I lost my baker for the afternoon, and I couldn't follow through on an over-night order. I lost many hundreds of dollars and my reputation to that client. It was awful & I cried like a baby. Up until that order, we had a fine-tuned system and "never said no." It was a confident place. Then it was over. Too much $$$$ to get a shop, or a truck...It would have to become "my everything" in order to keep going. And I just couldn't, after a series of health issues and diagnosis to add to the year. 
That was that. I had to be mom. 

My dear mommy-friend has a handful of babies like I do. And let me assure you. It wrecks the bod to deliver. Natural, c-section, it just doesn't matter! Things hang, deflate, or grow that were...never meant to? Or were they? Well no matter, we have a solution for all that delivery mess and it's called PLASTIC SURGERY. 
This friend had been given the "green light" to get whatever needed fixin', a good fixin'. 

Her potential surgeon gave her access to pictures of before and after (tummy, breasts, you name it) of clients who had her similar body type and situations she was looking to operate on. 
She was not impressed. We had a long talk about it. Be comfortable with what you have? Or slice it up, maintain it (yes, some surgeries require maintenance care) and "get your groove back?"
This friend already has her groove. She lights up a room, her laughter is contagious, and she is gorgeous as is. (I'm not saying this to flatter her, it's just the darn truth). When I met her over a decade ago, I hated her 5mo belly bump coz it compared to my 8 week bump. She is just blessed like that, and I am not.

Those thirty-40 somethings know what happened to Tara Reid and Kathy Griffin, right? But we are flooded with images like this instead: 

We think we what we see is what we will get.

How on EARTH does this connect to diabetic alert dogs, you say? Well... This industry is meant to be ran like a business. You pay, you receive. But think of how personal each team is to the organization providing the service, and/or you!
You get a picture of a puppy and you're HOOKED. DONE. "This is our D.A.D!" Videos, pictures, and testimonials pop up all over FB. 
It's beautiful and we all want to "Like", follow or share in your joy. Some of us, "Want that too." 
Who wouldn't? A furry, affectionate canine companion for my diabetic child? COUNT ME IN.
"But where do I start? How do I GET A DOG? Do I hire someone to do it? Can I do it myself? What does it cost? Where did THEY get THEIRS. That looks good."

The problem with this industry being so personal is just that. It's personal. So if one person had a bad experience (like my poor client who got late pops) they will want to TAKE THAT ORG DOWN. 
But no two people or experiences can possibly repeat! So is that really fair? Oh, but Warren Retrievers... (we get a free pass to complain about his org publicly, if not already clients) Have you noticed that? He is finally under Federal Investigation. I know more people online than in person who have been wronged by this man. I also know two local handlers that are more than pleased by their dogs from him. So much to say, he has been in prison before, he may be there again. He keeps producing dogs and families keep flocking. 

I receive correspondence from people wanting to leave their current organization. They heard through the grape vine how I left our first organization successfully. So we consult. 
I do not bother sharing anything negative or even mentioning my first company. I gleaned a WORLD of perspective from that experience and wouldn't take it back. So I share that perspective. 

What you see is not what you are going to get. Most likely, you are the parent of a Type 1 diabetic and you never knew this dog/DAD thing existed until you were exposed to it.
Now your world and the dog world are going to collide. It can be awesome, it can be messy. It can be painstaking for either party.

I also receive correspondence from organizations wondering how to get rid of their clients. I'm not joking. We, (yes, I'm including myself), can be pain-in-the butts! We have a foot in everything, we follow and inquire everywhere... it's A LOT OF MONEY, TIME, COMMITMENT, etc. Why wouldn't we be "all up in it?"

Where's the research? Where are the "this organization sucks, don't talk to them", reviews? They are few are far between. And maybe worth a glance but not an investment. 

You have to find the right fit for you. That's agreeable on both sides. Do you want a business experience or a personal experience? Do you want to get a "started pup", pay, walk out and follow up at home? OR do you want consistent follow up care AT HOME. From the start? Do you want a mature dog that is "finished" and you have the follow-up care to now learn? 

Are you interested and ready to attend conferences, travel by plane, and spend much more out of pocket cash? Can you include/afford vet care if you decide to self-train? Don't forget PET INSURANCE! We all need that!

Do you know your resources and have help lined up?

Stop getting warped by "this is my adorable dog" and think about the reality. There is no romance in adding another life to your family unit. Especially while one is disabled and maintaining their health on an hourly basis.

Know you're doing it the right way, YOUR WAY. Then you know what you're getting!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to "get a dog"...

You must be at the starting point! Welcome.

Getting a diabetic alert dog is as easy as:

  • Picking one up at a pet shop (This is a no-no. Please refrain.)
  • Finding a local breeder through listings
  • Hiring a "dog person" to get one for you
  • Going through an organization that provides them
  • Checking out your local shelter
  • One donated to you
It's that simple. But how do you know that dog is going to work out? You don't.
That's where the learning curve comes in. This is where experience and trust and knowing what to look for come into play. 
All the ways of "getting a dog" above (besides the first one) are used in the DAD industry by successful teams and organizations.

  • WHAT ABOUT OUR CURRENT PET?! -Excellent question. Is your pet bonded to your Type 1? Does your pet have a natural curiosity and use their nose a lot? Do they have the temperament for obedience work and correction? The above are great questions you may figure out for yourself, or hire a DAD trainer to consult you on...
I have interviewed and listed many self-trainers, and organizations here on this blog, so please look around! You may get a puppy and start from that point. Most organizations/trainers will get to know their client, then look for their dog. Does my client have any particular needs (severe allergies in the family, anyone that is otherwise disabled to consider, etc)? They will THEN go through their avenues to find a dog... Or may have some in training ready for you and know which one will best fit! 

Where to their dogs comes from?
  • Trusted breeders they have built relationships with to ensure solid bloodlines
  • Career-change dogs (i.e. "Fido" was a hunting dog, or a S.A.R Search and Rescue dog -so he has a nose and likes to retrieve- but he is not making the cut for whatever reason....) OR dogs from other organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind may have a dog with unique different coloring, or a temperament they do not see fit for their standards...
  • They go to shelters and rescue dogs that have the right temperament and work drive
How do they know?
  • Most organizations and trainers have a series of "tests" they do with puppies, career change, and shelter dogs----they do what they do and pick "the one." 
What comes next?
  • Obedience training. Who will do it? You? A hired trainer? What setting is the dog going to be in for the obedience training. Think public access opportunities. Over and over again. Pet Smart, Lowes, Home Depot, Pet Co and sometimes Target are great places to start going out to. 
  • Get the dog a vest? How do I do that? (Yes, there are fakers, we "loathe" them. We post about them, we read about them). But if we are self training, where DO we get vests? Ahem* We all know where. Are the necessary? NO. But some say it's great to have the dog in "working mode" with them on. 
  • Do I need certificates and registration? NO. The ADA (American Disabilities Act) backs us on that. All you need to do is learn the law so you can confidently recite it, and register your dog with the state like you would your pet. Keep the obedience training going. Service dog or not, you can get kicked out for an unruly pet or one that poops in the store. (THE P.A.T Public Access Test is a great way to "guarantee" your dog is ready, and no longer "in training." Find a trainer or organization that will help you accomplish this. It's an annual fee and annual commitment.)
SCENT WORK! You are the scent. Collect it. Have the Type 1 gather their scent in a cotton dental roll (like the type for when your teeth get pulled...you can cut it in half two for more than one sample at a time!) SOAK them with saliva during the low. Decide your T1's lowest you will go to collect. (May even consult your doc or use common sense). Use the empty strip rolls or buy/make sterile containers, or like a glass chemistry shaped vial, etc... Label & double ziploc bag them for the freezer. These are techniques we have personally used. But don't forget to have the T1 handle as much as possible so there aren't outside influences...and make sure they didn't drink their OJ or have a sugar stick before the sample, either!
TIP* use snack sized ziploc bags double sealed to store multiple samples. Re-sterilize jars or containers for when ready to use...

There are books and videos and techniques out there for YOU. THIS IS NOT A SECRET INDUSTRY. There is NO COMPETITION. You will not fail if you do it alone (if you do it smart and do it to your best ability) and you also will not be guaranteed a successful experience leaving it to the hands of an organization. Listen to your organization, read their contract and know how to follow up for the lifetime of your D.A.D.
Partner up, online, IN PERSON- know your support system. Make sure it's a two way "trust road" and GO FOR IT. There's no WRONG WAY. There's only YOUR WAY.

Resource Links: Top 10 resources for DAD info - all the books, blogs, websites, FB groups and videos you want to know about!

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

Top 5 reasons DADs turn into expensive pets

Do you know WHY you want a DAD?