Monday, November 4, 2013

A wonderful gift may not be wrapped just as you expect

Our families come from vastly different walks of life, from all parts of the country, and even across the world. However, despite having to deal with the daily blood sugar battles, they have something special in common; they're all dedicated. Training and working with a D.A.D requires persistence, determination, and dedication. There are various types of organizations in the Service Dog world, and they all do things differently. Our organization firmly believes in allowing our families the opportunity to play a role in the training of their Service Dog. 

One of the many perks of receiving your D.A.D at four to six months of age is the decrease in wait time for your delivery. Our families are the most important part of the organization, and allowing them an additional tool to monitor their glucose levels as quickly as possible is important. It also gives a beautiful time period for you to bond with your D.A.D and increases the communication foundation between dog and handler. 

As part of our program, a trainer from the organization visits your family during the initial placement. They then return approximately every 90 days for a total of 8 visits and introduce new phases of training, check up on progress, and are available to answer questions.

Having a dog is a responsibility and having a Service Dog is an even bigger one! It's normal to face challenges and have questions along the way. I asked some families what their biggest unexpected event was after receiving their dog, and these are some of the responses I got:
"I think the hardest thing our family has faced was that we didn't have a clue how my husband, who our D.A.D is for, would take having a Service Dog...He was so excited to get [our D.A.D]. There was not a day that went by after we went active that we didn't think about what [color] he would be and when we would be matched. Then came the day he arrived, and it was a transition. We had to incorporate alerts, night time checks, training, and everything that goes with it...He loves [him] but will sometimes resent [him] because when he does alert, that means his sugars are out of range...the relationship is a constant reminder for [my husband] that he has Type 1 Diabetes...I talked to Phil and we have come up with some ways to help [them] continue to have a bond while doing his job. I love our trainers and I love how they really listen and take into consideration what these dogs mean. I love Warren Retrievers for the piece of mind that they have given me the last year. I would not trade this pup for anything in the world!"
another family says:
"We wanted to get a D.A.D to help keep a tighter control on my husband's sugar. He's Type 1 but was diagnosed as an adult, and convincing him that he had to incorporate this new ritual of insulin and accu checks into his life was really hard! When we got our D.A.D she turned his attitude upside down! He wants to check his sugar at any sign of distress for our pup, and she has given him a new reason to want to take care of himself!"
Both responses are very common when a family receives a new Diabetic Alert Dog. This is one of the benefits of having a trainer come to you during the initial placement! They get to know your family, your lifestyle, and they already know your dog - so they can help you incorporate this new family member, and medical tool, into your life with as little hiccup as possible!
"People always wanted to pet him, and I hated telling them no, so I usually just let them. When I did, though, it was hard to get him back into focus. If they didn't ask first and just reached down to pet him, I didn't know how to correct them without seeming mean."
"Having several dogs has complicated her training more than I expected. I thought the big thing would be jealousy that [she] gets to go with me every morning, but it is more trying to find time to give each dog individual time and still make time to isolate them so that I can do skill training with her"
"There is no more taking a quick trip to the grocery store. I don't want to leave her at home since she's my daughter's Service Dog. That is the point in having her! I wouldn't check her sugar in the middle of aisle 12 unless she seemed out of range, and it thank God for her every time I get a paw or nudge walking through the frozen food section. She catches my daughter dropping fast, and I can correct it before a catastrophe happens, but it took a while to get used to finding my car keys, vesting her, putting her on her leash, grabbing her treats, making sure I have potty bags, taking my purse, the diaper bag, and loading two kids up in the car! I'm used to it now, but in the beginning I had to give myself an extra 15 minutes to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything important!"  
This cracks me up!
All of these things are challenges clients face regardless of what type of Service Dog they utilize, how old it is, or what company it comes from. What sets SDWR apart from other organizations is that our trainers physically come to your home and help you though these issues! They help you prepare, and lead by example. 

When they go home, our families are never on their own. Trainers are available via phone and e-mail to answer questions, concerns, give tips, and help families through any road bumps, but ultimately dedication and consistency from our families produce the best Service Dogs!

There will be things that come up that shock you, surprise you, and there will be times you think "Holy cow, I don't know what to do in this situation!" Trust me, you're not alone on that! Everyone has been there, everyone has had their moments, and do you know how each one of them gets through it? Sticking to it and keeping in contact with their trainer! 

The longer you have your Service Dog, the better you will get at solving problems. You are learning to communicate with your D.A.D, and he or she has grown with you on this process, all along learning to trust you as the handler and knowing you have never given up! The more you put into your SDWR, the more you will get in return, and we have an amazing network of other families, trainers, and organization staff themselves who  are always willing to weigh in and help you along the way.

Few things go exactly how we plan, or imagine. I mean, seriously, that would make it way too easy! I feel like one of the easiest things to do is give up, but I try to encourage families to recognize that most things in life worth having didn't come without any work. Personally, I think training is fun! I love watching it "click" when you want your dog to do something and they finally get it. 

Part of having a Service Dog is dealing with things other than just training. You must deal with your dog as an animal first, a Service Dog in function next, and then the "tricks" and skills. After that, you take into consideration going out in public and any challenges or triumphs you may face doing Public Access. More than likely there will be things you come across that you need help with, and that is what we're all here for!

We all want the same thing - and that is A CURE! 

But, until there is a cure...there is a dog!

(And a big SDWR Family cheering you on!)

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