All posts by Leslie

Extra, Extra, BREED all about it!!!

Your Diabetic Alert Dog will be with you everywhere you go.  People will watch you, some mutter things under their breath, some will try to speak sweet nothings to your dog which can be very distracting to the working animal, they will be curious and they will ask you questions.  Does the breed of my DAD really matter!?  I personally do not think it is so much that the specific breed matters, what matters is that the dog has been trained properly, and does it’s job to the absolute best of it’s ability.   In general, I think “most” people are used to seeing “America’s Dog”, the Golden Retriever, or the Labrador Retriever in working/service dog positions, but like everything in life, things change and adapt over time.

You will find that people have VERY specific and sometimes strong feelings towards specific breeds and whether that is because they have had a bad experience with a certain breed of dog, it is up to us as Service Dog handlers to prove that our dog can handle whatever situation it is placed in.  If my service animal is a Rottweiler, a Toy Poodle, Border Collie, Boxer, German Shepherd, (this list is literally endless) it is the dogs training that will prove he/she is worthy of his/her job.   Our DAD is 4 years old, she is a very small Labrador so most people think she is a puppy in training.  We get comments non-stop about how well behaved she is and how amazing she is with our daughter.  That is exactly how it should be.  You should never have to be worried about your dogs behavior while out in public (or at home for that matter).  These dogs are trained to save lives and they are constantly “on the job” and in working mode which is why it is so important to be aware of your surrounding AT ALL TIMES to help them (and you) stay safe.  I do think, however, that if you feel a specific breed is better suited to you and it isn’t what “most” people are used to seeing out in public as a service animal, you need to be willing and prepared to field the questions that are inevitably going to follow.   Another way you can help promote a positive response with your service animal, no matter what breed,  is by keeping them well groomed and in great physical condition.  This is so important on so many levels.  Not only are you keeping your service dog in the best health for longevity but by keeping them well groomed, you are also being considerate of everyone that will be near your dog.  Cleanliness is key for your service animal when dining out, attending public functions, visiting friends, going to doctors appointments, shopping, etc.

 

dog breeds 1

There are organizations that specifically rescue dogs from shelters or bad situations and then train them to be service dogs.  While I believe it is great (and necessary) to save and place animals with new handlers, I personally would not be comfortable being placed with a rescue to be my service dog.  I feel very strongly that I want to know the background of the animal I am going to be placed with, and I want to know that the breeding lines of these dogs have proven themselves over time.  I also want to ensure, to the best of my ability, that the health and longevity has been proven from past working dog lines that have been used.  There is no way to ever be 100% certain, but knowing the track record of past litters/service dogs was very important to me when choosing the organization that would be training our daughter’s Diabetic Alert Dog.

Lower cost service dogs are also a huge “turn on” for people researching for their prospective alert dogs.  While the organizations that rescue, train and place service dogs with families might do a great job and produce fine working service animals at a much lower cost, I felt more comfort knowing that the organization I chose to train our daughters dog (while yes, it cost a considerable amount more $$, that money was easily fund-raised) had put in the extra time, money, effort, training, and overall care to ensure the longevity, safety and overall abilities that our DAD is capable of.   In the end, it really comes down to what is the right fit for you and your family and it all goes back to RESEARCH!!  Please do your research and find an organization that will fulfill your needs and one that you feel comfortable doing business with.

The dreaded “F” word….FUNDRAISING, for your Diabetic Alert Dog!!

Congratulations!  You have chosen your organization and you are ready to start your fundraising!  For so many, if not everyone that I have talked to, this is an extremely intimidating undertaking!  We were also very unsure about all of this but decided to just jump in with both feet and have a little faith that it would all work out!

$20,000 is A LOT of money!  You have signed a contract which means you are now committed to making monthly payments,  bi-monthly payments or whatever payment option fit your situation best.  I know you are asking yourself “How in the world will we raise this much money?! Where is this money going to come from!?  What if we don’t raise enough to make our payments!?”  I can assure you that you WILL be able to do this!

 

I will tell you how we raised the money for our daughter, and then I will blog other fundraising ideas that will hopefully help you brainstorm ideas to make your fundraising successful!

COH fundraiser pic

We held several different fundraisers for our daughter.  We asked several local businesses if we could set up a donation jars.  We took a great close up photo of her, and did a short write-up to attach to the jar so people could read her story.  This brought in several thousand dollars over the course of 4 months.  We also did a pop can drive.  In Michigan, we can return our pop cans for the 10 cent deposit fee, this turned into roughly $4,000.00 in profit towards her dog.   It was not the cleanest or the most fun, but it was fairly “easy” to do.   We then began planning our big fundraiser.  We rented a building at our local county fairgrounds, which cost about $500, but it included the use of the kitchen, tables/chairs, and we had access for a 24 hour time frame.  We sent out letters to local businesses explaining our daughters story and how a diabetic alert dog could help keep her safe.  In the letter we asked for donations and/or items for our silent auction and the amount of items that we were able to collect was mind blowing!  People we have never met, were calling us asking what they could do or what we needed to help us have a successful event.  It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever been a part of!  We also had about 14 vendors at our event  (Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Thirty-One, etc) and they were able to set up a table with their products and at the end of the evening they all donated 20% of their sales back to our daughter.  Most of the vendors extended this offer for the entire month and just sent us one check with their final donation.   We had a nice dinner with desserts for all of our guests but tried to keep it simple.  We were able to get everything donated except for the meat, which was very helpful when trying to plan a large event with a small budget.  We held a 50/50 raffle (you will need to look into proper licensing to hold any type of raffle in your state) and the winner donated all of the money back to our daughter, almost $1,000.00!  This one event generated just under $8,000.00 in ONE evening!  We also held a small golf outing, the golf course/club donated the greens for the afternoon and we had all of the food and some silent auction items donated to help bring in more donations.

Get creative, think outside the box!  The ideas are truly endless!  It can be scary at first but try to have fun with it!  It will take some work, but your hard work will pay off in the end.

 

Questions, Questions and MORE QUESTIONS! Researching for your Diabetic Alert Dog…

In this section I will highlight the things that were important to me as I did my research.   As I mentioned in my previous blog, you are interviewing organizations to train YOU a life saving employee!  You need to consider all of the qualities and characteristics that are important to you in a potential organization.  (Side note: Before you make your phone calls, have a notebook with all of your questions ready and a place to take notes, as there will be a lot of information to keep track of).

ASD dogs2

I started by asking about the organizations breeding program or how they acquire their dogs, what breeds did the organization train, (for some people the specific breed may be very important, to others the specific breed may not be an issue).  You need to ask about the dogs medical background, their veterinary care, if ANY dogs have ever been returned and why.   What type of housing are the dogs kept in while they are in training? How many dogs are in training at one time?  How many trainers does your organization have?  Do volunteers raise the dogs, or are they only handled by the organizations trainers? What happens when I have questions or a problem AFTER my DAD is delivered?  Would the organization give out references from past/current clients? Does the organization have a contract and if yes, would they allow you to review it.  If there is no contract, ask why?!  I asked questions about the training process and how long it would take to train our DAD.  This was VERY different for a lot of the organizations.  Depending on how the dogs were trained, you could be placed with a puppy with minimal training that you have to finish with help via email/phone calls or video training ( I personally can’t imagine this being a good/effective way to train any DAD), some organizations used rescued dogs that were then trained to be a DAD’s, (this method was worrisome to me personally as I wasn’t comfortable not knowing the medical history of the dog or the breeding of the animal and whether or not it would be predisposed to genetic disorders or other medical issues).  Some organizations fully trained the DAD’s before placement but required trips back to their organization every six months to a year for follow up or for additional training services in order for you to keep the DAD.  This method could prove to be very costly, on top of the cost of the dog, having to arrange travel plans and accommodations if you do not live near the training facilities.  This was also a red flag to me, if I was getting a fully trained DAD, then why would I need to return for “further training”…?  Once you are placed with a fully trained DAD, you will most definitely  be “maintaining” the dogs training and nurturing the behaviors that they have been given, but with a properly trained DAD, this is a very simple and FUN task!   I also asked if the organization screened for hip and eye issues because maintaining a healthy DAD is crucial to the life expectancy of the dog. (OFA- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, or CERF testing- Canine Eye Registration Foundation) I asked if the organization guaranteed their animals and if they would return/replace the DAD if a situation presented itself.  There were other “small talk” questions about the dogs obedience, personalities and social skills of the dogs, time table for delivery of our DAD, fundraising, making payments, etc and I will cover more of these topics in future posts.  I have added the links to the specific testing that I mentioned above if you would like more information on why these are so important to maintaining a healthy working service animal.

http://www.offa.org/

http://www.tctc.com/~maplerg/cerf-.htm

As you talk to different organizations you will come up with more questions, that is OK, use that to your advantage for your research!  If the organization is not willing to answer certain questions or seems to redirect your questions you need to ask yourself why!?  They should be an open book, willing to explain and help you through every part of the process of getting your DAD, no topic should be off limits.  I hope that this information has been helpful but ultimately you need to decide what is most important to you when you are on your journey to find the right organization to train your Diabetic Alert Dog and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.

ASD dogs3

Another big concern for many families after they choose the organization to train their DAD is how in the world will they raise the money!?  Stay tuned, in my next two blogs I will walk you through our personal fundraising journey and will also give you some ideas to get you started on your own fundraising adventure!

Your ready for a Diabetic Alert Dog, time to do your research!

Like buying a new car, or searching out a new doctor you need to do your homework!  You need to “test drive” every single organization that you are considering purchasing a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) from.  Think of it this way, you are interviewing these organizations to train you a personal life saving “employee” if you will.  You will take this employee with you everywhere.  What qualities would you look for in the company training your employee, and what qualities would you look for in the final product of your personal employee, your life line, your fully trained DAD!?  My best piece of advise, as you go through your research process would be,  if at ANY point, you feel uncomfortable with the information you are given, if you get a “gut feeling” that something isn’t right, it most likely isn’t.  Trust your instinct.  Do NOT sign anything and do not send any money until you are certain you are comfortable in your decision.

Hudson researching

You have the right to ask about anything!  Lets be very clear, you are about to spend and/or fund raise a very large amount of money so choosing the best organization to train your DAD is a very big decision!  While some may make this decision very quickly, others may take a much longer time to decide which organization is right for them.  We spent an entire year deciding whether or not a diabetic alert dog was the right choice for our family.  Once we decided that is was the right choice, we spent another year researching dozens of Diabetic Alert Dog organizations.  I asked hundreds of questions, literally.  You have to be committed and you will need to make the time to get all of your questions answered.  I promise it will be worth it in the end.  Unfortunately, there are people out there that are not in this for the right reasons.   There are several organizations out there that  are “training” diabetic alert dogs, but are really in it for the money. People that are placed with an untrained or incorrectly trained DAD will end up with a dog that does not alert to your impending high or low blood sugars and in the end you will just have a very expensive pet.   To train one of these dogs correctly, and efficiently truly is very expensive and takes countless hours on the trainers behalf.

Questions, Questions and MORE QUESTIONS!  I will note in my next blog several of the questions that I asked when interviewing potential organizations to train our daughter’s DAD.