I just read something I identify with so much that I don’t know what to do
Posted On August 6, 2016
So this is probably going to sound weird.
I read a post. And, Good Lord, I just absolutely 100% get it. It totally encapsulates all the stress I am feeling right now.
Running an Assistance Dog charity is, frankly, a nightmare (“service dog” in England would mean a police or customs dog etc., the term doesn’t translate from the US). I knew it would be stressful. Dog people are stressful. Assistance Dog people are a whole other kettle of fish.
I expected to be stressed. But I am struggling to cope of late, because of scenarios similar to the ones that the article describes.
And I haven’t even started formal training with anybody yet! I have thus far only offered cursory advice, we’ve been waiting for funding (which we unfortunately just got turned down for – another source of stress).
Even at this point in the charity’s development, I’ve already encountered people who are just not suited to having an Assistance Dog.
As well as being a trustee, I for some reason thought it was a brilliant idea to make myself the applicant assessor. This was inspired by the good time I had with the applicant assessor at Canine Partners on one of my assessment days there. I thought, what a great job, meeting all these people, watching them work with their dog and deciding how to go forward. Needless to say, this experience has not translated thus far.
Mainly, people just refuse to follow instructions. We need to be accredited with ADI and ADEu (then, in seven years time, ADUK) and so we have to follow their guidelines all the time to avoid scuppering our chances. We need accreditation to fully ensure the rights of our partnerships, instead of operating in the “vague areas” that the law doesn’t explain properly.
Quite a few times already, when explaining the steps of the programme in email replies, I get “Don’t worry about that, we’re going to do such-and-such,” and “Oh don’t worry, we’re going to make sure the dog is socialised, ourselves.” No, buddy, I need to be able to verify what the hell you are doing. I am not going to have your dog bite somebody in Sainsbury’s in two years time, while wearing a jacket with my logo, because you refused to follow my instructions.
I fired an applicant recently for being such an arse. He was a 40-something head of his own consulting firm, and made it increasingly apparent that he was not happy with a late-twenties disabled woman telling him what to do. He refused instructions and even told me that some commands for dogs should just not exist.
I’ve had an applicant write a GP surgery on their application, that didn’t know anything about them when I wrote to them. One applicant, I’ve had to send the form to literally three times. It kept “getting lost” on return, and the only times it did “turn up,” it just included the vet reference information, not the medical reference or the main application form.
JUST FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, PEOPLE.
I am the person with superior knowledge and experience, in this scenario. You are the one applying to the programme, that I run. You are expecting me to spend my charity’s money on you and your dog. That means that I give instructions to you, not the other way around.
I’ve had people not wanting to insure their dogs. People not wanting give vaccinations. People not wanting to give any actual assistance training, thinking I’d somehow agree to put on paper that their dog is trained so that they can move house with it.
I’ve had people with dog-on-dog-aggressive animals wanting them to become Assistance Dogs. I’ve had people ask “Are you sure there’s no other way?” literally 15 times in 15 different emails, each time I’ve told them, plainly, that they are not suitable for the programme because of the ridiculous things they want.
I set up this charity because I wanted to help people. I went through so much pain when there wasn’t a training space for Freya with one of the existing charities. I’ve got the room to apply for a whole new dog, so I’m lucky.
Most disabled people can’t do that. Most disabled people already have a dog that would do just fine, if only there was a training space for them. That’s only in terms of mobility tasks.
There’s no owner-training for guiding dogs, hearing dogs, Autism dogs for adults, mental health Assistance Dogs, aside from at my charity, and it’s also hard to get an owner-training medical alerting place.
So far, I’ve spoken to an overwhelming number of people who are not deserving of the help I’ve been wanting to give. I’m sure there are good applicants out there, applicants who will later become partnerships we will have a good relationship with and be proud of. We just haven’t crossed paths.
Mostly I am getting people with attitudes very much like those in that article. I also probably don’t need to explain that I am very alarmed by the London family mentioned; the fact that they didn’t want to respect this country’s Assistance Dog system and instead bypassed it by buying a foreign dog, raises so many red flags. Though I suppose, in fairness, an American provider couldn’t be expected to know that.
So yes, it’s SUPER stressful.
But I hope that one day soon, it’s going to work out for us. We’ll have partnerships getting out to their local areas with their lovely dogs, and we’ll have the funds to buy their training aids and their rope tugs, and the train fare for home visits. I want to believe this will all be fine.
We do, however, desperately need funds in the charity PayPal account. Our bank account itself still is not sorted yet! But we do have PayPal so far, and I’ve finally listed the loop fob keyrings for sale.
We’re trying to think of sponsored things Kadek and me can do to generate initial money. Obviously a marathon is out of the question!