Copyright by Wendi Goodman THE One Weary Soldier. Powered by Blogger.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How Much is That Doggie in the Window

Hello Invisible Reader.  Let's talk about dogs today.  Dogs are one of my favorite subjects.  I grew up with them.  My mother, Barbra Goodman, was well known in the "dog world".  She got her first dog when I was three years old.  Chopper was an Afghan Hound.  My mother, being very inexperienced back then thought she could train Chopper to show in Obedience.  I remember Chopper very well even though I was just a little girl at the time.  I named Chopper after a cartoon character on television back then.  If you click on this hyperlink, it'll take you to an old Hanna Barbera Cartoon featuring Chopper and his buddy Yakky Doodle Duck.  I'm sure Mom had other names in store for her beautiful Afghan, but Chopper stuck. When you have three kids under the age of three years old calling a dog "Chopper", what is a Mom to do?

Afghans are beautiful and graceful dogs.  They are lovely to look at.  The problem is they just aren't that smart.  (Apologies to all you Afghan owners out there).  Chopper wasn't the exception.  When my sister was 14 months old, she was sitting in her high chair happily munching away at her breakfast cereal, when Chopper jumped up, totally unprovoked, and bit my little sister in the face.  Chopper disappeared that day never to be seen again.  Mom did not/would not tolerate an aggressive dog around us kids.

Eventually Mom became one of the top obedience trainers and most recognized Obedience Judges in the United States and in the history of the American Kennel Club.  At the time of her death in 1994 she had judged more Obedience dogs than any AKC Judge on record.  As a child, we traveled with Mom to the dog shows.  We were gone every single weekend.  I know every fairground, every park, every rest stop in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and parts of Ohio.  I've been to them all.  We were always on the go.  There was always a dog show to go to.  As a kid I was jealous that my friends used to go off for two weeks every summer on vacation.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized I saw more of the good old US of A traveling to dog shows on the weekend than my friends ever saw on their two week vacations every summer.  Hindsight is 20/20 ya know.

Mom was also an accomplished writer.  She wrote a monthly column for Dog World Magazine, Front and Finish, was a guest author for Dog Fancy and she even authored her own book, Training Dogs with Common Sense.  Mom was also a contributing author to the Obedience Chapters in three other books.

 Front and Back Covers of Moms Book.  Mom is the Blond.  The dog she is posing with is "Heygirl".

Over the years we had more dogs than I can count.  Mom went through dogs like most people go through socks.  If a dog wasn't right for showing, she placed it in a pet home.  Usually that meant being placed in the home of some unsuspecting relative or the home of a good friend with children.  In all those years there were only two aggressive dogs.  Chopper was the first one and the second one was Rebel.  Rebel took a chunk out of my brother, so he ended up in the same place as Chopper.  Doggie Heaven.  There was no place in our home for an aggressive dog and Mom didn't feel comfortable placing an aggressive dog with anyone else.  I grew up with Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Flat Coated Retrievers, a Miniature Schnauzer, a Belgian Tervuren,  an Afghan Hound, a Yorkie, Labrador Retrievers .... I'm sure I'm missing a breed or two but you get the point.  Those are just the dogs my mom had when I was growing up.  As an adult, I've had a variety of breeds, too.

Belledog was our contortionist

Having spent so many years in the Army, it was difficult to have a dog of my own.  I lived in the barracks for many years where you couldn't have a dog.  Then, finally, came the day that I was able to move off post and stay off post for the rest of my military career.  The first two dogs I had were a Golden Retriever named Rambo and a Cocker Spaniel named Kosher.  Rambo ended up with my ex-husband when we divorced and she lived a long healthy life up in Butte, Montana.  Kosher ended up being placed with my First Sergeant.  She lived to be about 12 years old.  Next came "Heygirl".  Heygirl was a Golden Retriever that my mother had shown in Obedience.  Heygirl was 5 years old when she came to me.  Mom had retired her.  I had Heygirl until she was 12 years old.  After Heygirl came "Taxi", another Golden that Mom had shown and retired.  At one time, while I was living in Houston, I was up to three dogs.  I had Taxi the Golden, Belledog the Greyhound, and Jaga the Doberman.  All of these dogs lived to be about 12 years old before I had to put them down due to illness.

One month ago I lost my Doberman, Puzzle.  I got Puzzle in August 2005 from Doberman Rescue of Dallas.  I'd lost Jaga the Doberman about a month before I'd gotten Puzzle.  I'd been looking for a rescue Doberman for several months by the time I adopted Puzzle.  I have another dog, Manor.  She's a medium sized mixed breed that I found at a motel I was staying at outside of Fort Knox, Kentucky.  She'd either been abandoned there or had just wandered in there.  No one was really certain.  I was managing a boarding facility in Cincinnati at that time so I took her from that motel with every intention of finding her a home.  That was 2003 and she's still with me to this day.  Jaga had been ill for some time.  I was hoping to bring another dog into my home so Manor would have another "sibling" to bond with before we lost Jaga.  Dogs mourn, too, and I wanted to make the transition easier for Manor.  Sadly, it didn't work out as planned.  Luckily though from the day I brought Puzzle home she and Manor were best buds.

 Belledog the Greyhound, Jaga the Doberman, Taxi the Golden Retriever

When Puzzle got sick last month we lost her in one weeks' time.  It was a heartbreaking loss for all of us.  Manor is still in mourning.  She doesn't leave our side.  She is as lost without Puzzle as I am.  Puzzle was a great source of comfort to me.  I miss that cold nose nudging me in the middle of the night.  I miss having her sleeping on the floor next to my side of the bed.  Just knowing she was there, watching over me, protecting me, there for me when I whimpered during the night or when I woke up from a nightmare meant more to me than words can express.  When I was down, when I cried, when I was in pain, Puzzle knew it.  She was at my side, her head in my lap, always there for me.  Puzzle was my "Velcro Dog".  She was glued to my side and I loved her for it.  My home is too quiet and lonely without her.  My heart is empty and void without her.

Puzzle and Manor taken in 2005

Where am I going with all this, you ask, Invisible Reader?  Bear with me.  A little more background and I promise I'll get to the point.  When I retired from the Army I moved to Houston.  I had been retired for about 6 months when I got there.  I'd worked for a small auto insurance company up in Chicago for several months after I retired and I already knew that was not a field I wanted to pursue.  I putzed around our new home in Houston, getting us unpacked, painting the new house, planting flowers and playing "domestic" until I just couldn't stand it anymore.  I had already applied to the VA for the Vocational Rehab program and was waiting to hear if I was going to be accepted into that.  You know how that goes .... you wait and wait and wait.  While I was waiting I needed something to do with my time.  I was getting tired of sitting at home all day.  There is only so much tanning you can do.

 Taxi loved a good fire

I picked up a little neighborhood newspaper and started looking through the classifieds.  One ad caught my eye immediately.  It was an ad for a receptionist at a veterinary hospital.  When I was a little girl I'd always wanted to be a veterinarian.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't possess the necessary math and science skills to pursue that field.  I still don't.  I wanted to work with dogs in the Army until I found out I had to become an MP first and then there was no guarantee I'd get to work with dogs.  This seemed like the perfect job for me. The next day I drove to the Vet Clinic, filled out an application and then I went home to wait.  Two days later I went in for an interview.  The owner was a Vietnam Era Veteran and I liked him immediately.  I started working for him the following Monday and we worked together for the next 4 1/2 years until he closed his doors for good due to declining business.  I started out as the receptionist and six months later I was managing the business.  After I left that clinic my advancement in the animal career field progressed nicely as I continued to manage larger, more high dollar veterinary hospitals and boarding facilities.  I stayed in that career field until my service connected disabilities got so bad that I could no longer do that kind of work.  I learned a lot about caring for dogs, cats, birds and pocket pets during those years.  It wasn't so much a career as it was a calling.  You don't go into that field to make a lot of money.  You do it because you have a love of domestic pets.  It isn't always glamorous.  It isn't always pretty.  It can get downright bloody and heartbreaking.  It takes a lot of compassion to work in the animal care field.  If you're looking to get rich working at a veterinary hospital or boarding facility you're barking up the wrong tree ... so to speak.  You do it because you love it.  When I had to walk away from it it broke my heart. 

 Me, Belledog, Jaga & Taxi in 1999

Now to the present, Invisible Reader.  Let's talk about Service Dogs.  You see them all the time.  You see them everywhere.  There are many different kinds of Service Dogs.  They assist the blind, the deaf, autistic children, the physically challenged, and those with emotional problems such as PTSD and depression or anxiety disorders.  When Puzzle died I spoke to my therapist about obtaining a Service Dog.  She thinks it's a wonderful idea and she believes I would do well with one.  So it was back to the internet for research.  I remember when hearing dogs first hit the scene back in the late 80's.  It might have been earlier ... my memory isn't the best.  I was working at a dog show somewhere and there was a group there who put on a demo with hearing dogs.  They were the first organization of its' kind.  I was astounded at the things these dogs had been taught to do.  I know how smart dogs are.  I know they can be taught to do a lot of different tasks.  But this was truly amazing.

Guide dogs for the blind have been around for a very long time.  We've all seen them around for as long as we can remember.  Hearing dogs?  Who had ever heard of such a thing!  Seeing was believing.  Since that time, many different types of service dogs have hit the market.  There is no limit to what these dogs can be taught to do for their handlers.  Some breeds work better for certain tasks than other breeds.

In my research I've found that dobermans, which I love, would not make a good service dog for me.  Dobermans tend to be protective of their owners.  When you're out in public with a service dog, you want a dog that is more social and less protective.  German Shepherds fall into that category as well.  Not a good breed for a service dog for someone like me.  The best breeds for someone like me are sporting dogs, some herding breeds, some working breeds. 

There are a lot of good organizations out there that provide service dogs at no charge.  I'm currently on a waiting list for a dog here in Florida.  "My" dog won't be ready for at least a year.  At the advice of the organization I'm on the list with, I'm also applying to other organizations.  This is where you have to do your research, Invisible Reader.

At the suggestion of one of the organizations, I applied to Affordable Service Dogs of Florida, Inc.  Their website says they provide service dogs to Veterans "at little or no cost".  The organization that referred me to them had forwarded an email I sent to them, to Affordable.  In my email, I stated I was an 80% s/c disabled veteran and the VA was going to pay for my service dog.  Here is a copy of the email I received from Affordable Service Dogs:

Hi Wendi,

My name is Judy Martini and my husband and I train Service Dogs to help Disabled Veterans. 

At this time we have 2 dogs that work for my husband to help with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  He is rated at 100% for PTSD, has crippling arthritis and is in a power chair.  He is a Viet Nam Veteran.

We do not call the dogs therapy dogs or Psychiatric Service Dogs, we just call them Service Dogs, because to have all those titles you need certifications that go along with it.  We are not  certified as anything, but  we have trained these 2 dogs to help Bill.  They are both obedient and do well in public. We have had them in stores, restaurants, synagogue, shopping centers, malls and doctor's offices.

They can be a tremendous help on those anxious days when you have anxiety attacks and flash backs.  They are calming and reassuring. 

The cost for either of these dogs is $2,500. 

Judy & Bill Martini
I was astounded when I received this email.  $2500 for a Service Dog?  Does that sound like "little or no cost" to you?  I emailed them back and asked them about it and this was their response:

We do run affordable Service dogs of Florida however, at this time the only dogs we have available are ones we have quite a lot of money in.  I thought you said the VA would be paying for the service dog for you.  We are waiting for our 503 c 3 status and have no funding for the program except for that of the sales to fund the program.  We do have a dog at this time we might be able to part with for a more reasonable amount he is a rescue.  We have been working with him for about a month, so he is not as well trained as the others.  He is large, but as gentle as a little puppy.  He does not show aggression, but his bark is loud and deep.  He crawls up in my husband's lap and will stay there for him to pet for an hour.  He likes to watch Big Cat diary on TV and likes to challenge the pictures on the TV.  We could part with him for $600.  We are working on obtaining funding so that we can give the dogs to disabled veterans, but as I said, we do not have any funding at this time.   We have more in this dog that the $600.
There are several things wrong with this response.  HUGE RED FLAGS, Invisible Reader.  First, it seems to me that once they realized the VA would be paying for a dog they jacked up the price from "little to no cost" to $2500.  Second, I've been around dogs and dog training my entire life.  There is absolutely no way that a dog who has been in training "for about a month" is ready to be placed with anyone as a service dog.  I forwarded this response to another larger, more established organization and asked their opinion.  Here is what they had to say:  (Color Scheme:  Brick - Reputable Organization;  Red - Affordable; Purple - me)

that response *stuns* me. I hadn't talked to them directly but have read their site and confirmed their business status.
Below are my comments for the issues I seen, I'm flabbergasted that they incorporated and are offering untrained, uncertified dogs.

We have 4 dogs that are less than a month in training, but I would never offer them, just because they are not trained.
As I mentioned earlier, they are about a year away from being  *ready*, (even longer for hearing and specialized training as you know).

>>We do not call the dogs therapy dogs or Psychiatric Service Dogs, we just call them Service Dogs,
>>because to have all those titles you need certifications that go along with it. 
>>We are not  certified as anything, but  we have trained these 2 dogs to help Bill.
>> They are both obedient and do well in public. We have had them in stores, restaurants, synagogue,
>>shopping centers, malls and doctor's offices.
Hum. so many things wrong with that.
  • ADI is the training association that gives the minimum guidelines of what different classes of service dogs are.
  • The certification just states it meets those guidelines,  i.e. 100 hours,  1,000 hours, etc.
  • Synagogue & Churches are not part of the ADA, so you must ask permission to enter those with a SD.

Apparently they don't know all the non-profit laws. They can take donations if they registered with the Dept of AG as a charity, as we have done, as required.
501c3 takes up to 2 years to complete, during that time you still are a 501c3 pending, the determination letter is a formality and it's still deductible.

>>I would suggest you don't refer anymore Veterans to these people.  It seems they are
>>looking to scam the VA out of money and/or place less than a well trained dog in
>>homes with Veterans.  They are not on the up & up.
  (I wrote this --)
Agreed, I'll drop them from our state listing of other schools, there are only about a dozen in the state.
There are several private trainers, but they charge a bit for personal SD training.

Overall I think they just aren't ready run a professional multi-dog school.
Based from their original reply I believe it's more a hobby that they raise a dog and sell it.

Here is a more reputable listing of the various schools in the country, and several in FL.
Please contact other schools and see if any are available, as you have an urgent need,
some have short waiting lists (1-2 months) others 3 years.
Needless to say, I have stopped all contact with Affordable Service Dogs of Florida, Inc.  I know in my previous blogs I've bashed the VA quite a bit for their ineptness, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let someone rip them off for $2500 either.  Why should I?  And why would I want a service dog from an organization that's willing to give me a dog with one month's training at the bargain price of $600 knowing what I know about dog training?  I sincerely hope they aren't doing this to other Veterans.  I hope they aren't selling dogs with inadequate training to unsuspecting Veterans.  Many of us are desperate for a service dog. People like the folks at Affordable Service Dogs of Florida, Inc., prey on the weak in my opinion and someone desperate for a dog might just fall into this trap.

Invisible Reader, if you need a service dog, or you are looking for a service dog, there are a lot of options out there.  Do your research.  Don't get sucked in by a hobbyist.  That's not to say all hobbyists are scam artists.  They aren't.  There are some very good private trainers out there who are certified to train service dogs.  A very good place to begin your search for a service dog is here .

The thing to remember, and I can't stress this enough, is DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  You will also have to be very patient.  As I was told, this can be a very long process.  In some cases you can get a dog in a matter of months.  In some cases the waiting list is up to three years.  Apply to as many organizations as possible.  If you get a dog, just remember to contact the other organizations whose lists you're on that you've received a dog.  Make sure they free up that dog for someone else. 

In the mean time, take a look at Charity.  She's been assigned to me as a Service Dog in training.  She's in Stage One right now.  She's a cutie, isn't she!   It'll be several months before we know if she's going to make it through the program.  In the meantime, I've applied to other programs at the suggestion of this organization.  I'm receiving monthly updates on Charity's training progress.  This is a good, reputable program.  If you want to sponsor Charity, you can.  Just click on the donate button next to her name.  Every penny helps.

Until the next time, Invisible Reader .....

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