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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Long Time No Update? Sorry!

We have had some busy weeks... We have once again moved, but this time we purchased a home. 

Brett has been on a roller coaster of seizure instability for months. We had finally gotten great control of the Atonic and Myoclonic seizures when his ammonia level went too high and his platelets too low with Depakote. We went down on his dose and they reappeared again causing several falls. So we added a supplement and went back up. This is the first time with either boy we have had this problem with ammonia and platelets. 
Unfortunately, it did not give the same result and the Atonics came back full force along with Myoclonics and sleeping 14-16 hours a day. As of now we added Onfi and halved his daytime dose for a few weeks and he has somewhat stabilized again with those seizure types. His Complex Partials have not gone into status nearly as often, but the shorter Complex and Simple Partials are about the same. His VNS has been going off the same as Brynn's for several months now, so I would have expected to see a difference if it was going to work at reducing his seizures like I believe it did for Brynn. We are almost finished weaning Depakote and are seeing improvements in his wakefulness and less seizures. 
Brynn has been pretty stable averaging just 1-2 seizures a week for an entire year. He has only had a few daytime seizures in this time and has somewhat cognitively leveled out to where I presume he will remain. We have worked really hard on inferring and basic life skills while maintaining his Reading and other scholastic levels. I have reached out to the local fire department to see if they will let him volunteer there to give him some positive men to have an influence on his life and prepare him for adulthood.
When people ask what made the biggest difference for Brynn I have a hard time knowing what to say. I do believe the VNS has had a benefit, especially on his depression. The Vimpat has had a wakening effect on his thinking and I believe it helps with the slow processing. The Onfi made a tremendous difference giving him about 50-60% reduction in Complex Partials. The Fycompa has stopped them from generalizing into Tonic Clonics as well as removed about half his Tonic Seizures. Altogether, he has gone from 4-6 seizures a week being a good baseline to his current 1-2 seizures a week. We will take that happily. He has lost over 40 pounds through watching his eating and being back in the country! We are so proud of him!      
On June 25th Blue was surrendered to the Breeder the Trainer got her from. I had her accessed by a local trainer. He determined that she has an unstable temperament and should have never been placed as a Service Dog. He also said she posed a risk for biting our 5-year-old Daughter due to her temperament problems. We decided that was a risk we couldn't take. It took Brett five days to realize that Blue was not only gone but wouldn't be coming back. He has had a really hard time adjusting to life without Blue. The trainer agreed to let us place Blue with the Breeder, who says the Mom is a lot like Blue. It's no surprise really that one of the four puppies did not make it as a Service Dog. I have done a lot of research and have learned a lot over the past few weeks. The most staggering fact came from a fellow Mom's blog. Her Daughter received a Service Dog from another Service Dog Training facility and she stated that they "temperament tested over 100 dogs to enter 10 into the program. There were 5 graduates." Wow. Blue came from a litter of 8. Our trainer did not temperament test the 4 available female pups she trained until she picked them up at just past eight weeks of age. How many did she put out as Service Dogs to families like us? ALL FOUR! Not only impossible that 4 out of 4 could finish successfully as Service Dogs, but very irresponsible, just ask any trainer! She stated in an interview with NSDF, that she temperament tested the dogs before they are chosen. NSDF was our sponsor for Blue and the NSDF website states "Paws-4-Seizures, the seizure and multi-service dog placement program at National Seizure Disorders Foundation, is available to any qualifying individual with  diagnosis of seizure disorder or multiple diagnoses requiring the assistance of a highly trained multi-service dog." 
Our Experience:
10 Month old Blue was delivered on April 9th as a Service Dog listing Brett (10) as the handler. The trainer spent four days coming to our home to show us how to handle Blue. It was on the second day that we heard Blue Growl and Bark for the first time. We passed it off as dreaming because she was sleeping on and off at the time. When the older two boys would come downstairs to leave for work she would do the same. When my husband and oldest son would come in from work she would o the same sometimes. 
When we received Blue it took a full 10 days just to get her house trained, have to give ny husband credit here he questioned her training from day one because of this fact. We all knew with the first visitor to our home we had a big problem when she had to be taken outside due to growling and barking. The second visitor (a family) proved that we had persistence, no matter who it was she was going to react the same way. Imagine the horror that the "Service Dog" would cause if she were to bark and growl at paramedics coming to help one of the boys? When she growled and barked at a grocery store manager, that's when we knew we needed help, what use is a Service Dog when you can't even take it in public? We did everything we could do and were heartbroken to learn that she couldn't be "fixed" to really fit into our home even as a pet. We adopted a Basset Doxie puppy who Brynn has really taken a liking to, but Brett has not been able to bond with the puppy. We are looking into adopting a German Shepherd from a rescue. She happens to look exactly like Blue, she was malnourished and is even abnormally small like Blue. Not sure if we will get her, but that's the direction we are going at this time to help Brett with the loss of Blue. 
 As for the trainer that trained Blue, I notified her of this problem with growling and barking on April 28th that occurred on the 27th with our realtor. She suggested good firm prong collar correction. We did that with second visitors on the 29th, again had to take her outside she would not stop. Notified her again on May 9th that she did it to the manager in the grocery and she said she would come show us some things. We decided to have her fixed, hoping that it would help to calm her down if the problem was hormonal. When Blue was spayed, the vet said that she had never been in heat and did not look to be close to having her first heat cycle. So all that time, every time something negative was happening the trainer would say "it's preheat" definitely was not. Meanwhile, I did a lot of research. She said that she would replace Blue on June 19th, I feel that we have been getting the run around ever since. We were supposed to get a photo of the Golden Retriever she was testing on Jul. 6th and she explained on July 29th that dog wasn't going to work because she is too mouthy for Brett. So that's where we are in our Service Dog Journey. Sadly, I have heard from several families that have had bad experiences as well. 

Recommended Reading:

*IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access:
*Service Dogs Training Standards
These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or provisional members with ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums:

*How to choose your service or assistance dog program:

*Finding a program or trainer and evaluating the one you've found:


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Before choosing a Service Dog Trainer

Our Service Dog Blue just celebrated her first Birthday! She has been off duty healing from having her spay surgery. We decided that spaying may help with the problem she has developed....
Fear Aggression, yikes! In response to the heartache of having this problem and all the emotions of having a service dog that needs serious training to correct this negative and unacceptable behavior. In any situation barking/growling at men and even in public, is never acceptable in a Service Dog. I have decided to share the survey responses from a survey I created to get the common answers of others who have a service dog to better understand what is normal and what is not when service dogs are delivered. She is clearly not ready for Service Dog work and cannot go back in public until this behavior is corrected. We have chosen a new trainer and will keep you updated as to her progress.
Brett says:

 "There can only ever be one BLUE." 

It is after all what Faith and Dreams are made of, 

believing even when you have no evidence.

*How old was your service dog when delivered or you went to get it.

  • Answered: 46 
  • Skipped: 0

  • Under 1 Year

    12-18 months

    Over 18 months
  • *Did your Service Dog have pee/poop accidents in your home in the first month?

    • Answered: 45 
    • Skipped: 1

    • Never

      Every Day for a few days

      Every Day for 10 or more days
      • *How much did you pay the trainer for training your Service Dog? (Training only, not any other cost)

        • Answered: 40 
        • Skipped: 6

        • $1,000 - $7,000

          $8,000 - 15,000

          More than $15,000
        • *Does the Service Dog meet your families expectations from the information your trainer gave you?

          • Answered: 45 
          • Skipped: 1

          • Somewhat, we have more problems than I expected

            Not at all what I expected

            100% Perfect both at home and in public
          • *How much time do you spend training with your Service Dog, not walking or play actually training for task?

            • Answered: 45 
            • Skipped: 1

            • Up to an Hour

              1 - 2 Hours

              2 Hours or More

              *How much do you think you spend in a typical  month for your Service Dogs Needs? (Food, Toys, Equipment, and anything needed monthly)

              • Answered: 45 
              • Skipped: 1

                • $50 or less

                  $100 or Less

                  More than $100
                  • *How long did it take for Your Service Dog to Adjust to your family?

                    • Answered: 44 
                    • Skipped: 2

                      • Immediately

                        A week

                        Longer than a week
                        • *How many specific Service Dog Commands did your Service Dog come home with?

                          • Answered: 42 
                          • Skipped: 4

                            • Under 10

                              Under 20

                              More than 20
                              • *What has been your overall Service Dog Experience? (Health, Obedience, Task Ability, Help to you/your family)

                                • Answered: 43 
                                • Skipped: 3

                                  • My Service Dog was delivered/picked up and met my needs on Day One

                                    Helpful but not Perfect, a Work in Progress

                                    My Service Dog does not meet my needs yet.
                                  • Clearly we can see that there are averages here, and the averages do correlate with the success rate of the placed Service Dog. According to this survey answered by owners of Service Dogs we can summarize:  
                                    1. A Service Dog can be successfully placed at a cost of up to $15,000.
                                    2. 12 months and older is a more common age to place a service dog. (From feedback it was discovered that many puppies go to the home for bonding until they reach a year, go back to trainer for service dog training before placement into the home as a working service dog. Therefore, my data is incomplete) 
                                    3. Peeing/Pooping in the house is consistent with incomplete training. Only 3 of my responders said their service dog did this for ten10 days or longer.
                                    4. A full 75% said their Service Dog met their expectations. Encouraging!
                                    5. All successful placements said their Service Dog immediately adjusted or adjusted within a week of placement to their new home. 
                                    6. Only 3 of my responders said their service dog has not met their needs yet.

                                    Where are the answers for the last question:
                                    *What is the greatest Advice you can give someone looking for a Trainer? (No Trainer Names please)

                                    It's best to wait for a large nonprofit to help you that only provides service dogs.
                                    Research & read reviews!
                                    Research, research
                                    Attention to detail re: training specifics. Give the recipients a "books to read" before they come train with the dog. During training have written quizzes for recipient/handler for recipient. REVIEW the answers together. Give more explanation if necessary. Have written/typed instructions for what to do (EXACTLY) when you get your dog home. 
                                    Make sure you do your homework
                                    Research!! There are many scams out there. Get references and follow up on them.
                                    Look for a program that is a nonprofit. Some "trainers" are in it for the money. Also look for one that specializes in a couple things not everything. 
                                    Research the good and the bad on everything.
                                    Ask lots of ?'s
                                    My short answer is DO YOUR RESEARCH / HOMEWORK. BE INFORMED! 
                                    A trainer that treats the dogs as he/she would their own children. Also, in my experience, a well trained trainer teaches the dog and passes that knowledge to the human. The dog knows what is it expected if trained well, the humans are more often the problem with "problematic" dogs.
                                    Always stay on them and try and get them to train with the persoN with disability
                                    If you have the time to commit, I truly believe getting the dog as a puppy and work with the trainers while training. This way the dog and the person it is getting trained for can start the binding process and get to know each other sooner..
                                    By using a professional organization, you not only get more than one great trainer, but you have an instant family of other people in the same situation who come to training with you. I can only say you're missing out if you don't go this route. It's worth the extra funding.
                                    Get references and talk to them
                                    Make sure the trainer is 1.knowledgeable 2. respectful of your family needs 3. the right personality match with YOU!.
                                    Ask lots of questions and communicate what your needs are in the beginning
                                    Research the company and talk to people that have gotten a dog through the company. Speak to the owner of the company if possible to see what they have accomplished with their dogs.
                                    Check references and remember the SD is still a DOG! They are not robots! They require constant attention and work to keep up their training. But are so worth it!
                                    Choose someone who you like and who is close enough to help with ongoing training.
                                    Someone that is looking (to) help children and not all about the money.
                                    Someone that truly understands the needs of your child, or person needing the service animal. Someone who is able to meet your needs, but also exceed them. Someone caring, understanding, and knowledgable.
                                    Make they listen and you all understand what your looking for in a service dog.
                                    Just the name or title Service Dog brings the price up for dogs and training up like 300%. Don't fall for this. Get your dog to a Certified Obedience Trainer and have them work specifically with your needs. You will save thousands of dollars. My complete training cost me around 750 and my dog does exactly what I need her to do.
                                    Look for an organization that provides the dog and training.
                                    Do your research and read reviews. We chose a fantastic organization that provides LIFETIME support regarding training and/or any health issues that arise as well as a network/support group of other families that have received service dogs from their organization.
                                    Make sure your approach to animals and training match your trainers--use your instincts. Like choosing a church or neighborhood, If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. there are many good trainers who see the world differently than you, and have strong biases. Make sure your biases match theirs. Also, start by getting to know your local dog community. We ultimately chose a trainer that was 500 miles away, but we would never have found her without the dog training school that is 5 miles away. It was the community at the local dog school that helped me--one person knew another who knew another. Also, don't be disappointed if the first trainer/organization doesn't work. We spent 3 years looking, and ultimately tried 4 places before we found the trainer and dog that worked for us. It is not a cut and dried field--service dogs--we thought we'd go with a a large well know organization, but that did not work for us. We ended up with a very small time trainer, one person operation, and it was perfect for us. that said, there is still an incredible adjustment period with the dog in our home. She is trained, but we are not. She also needs to be retaught what we expect of her in our home. She is willing and well-prepared to learn her place, but we have to be the ones to guide her and fine tune her training. Finally, there are no real guidelines or national regulations for service dog training. You really have to research what you what, and trust the person you pick to know the best approach without national regulations. Our dog serves our 11 year old daughter with daily seizures and developmental delay. We as parents are trainers and handlers. Good luck.
                                    Track record, referrals, persistence, under promise over deliver.
                                    Get references, ask a lot of questions, and ask them in different ways see if same answer! Be specific on questions!
                                    Research, research, research. When you find a trainer/organization you think looks good, dig into them. Do Better Business Bureau searches on each one. Check out their web sites, and ask questions about their financials. Know where the money goes, and who benefits from it.
                                    Go through a large organization, 75% of the trainers are frauds.
                                    Look for someone that will continue to support you even after the dog has left their facility, is communicative, and will answer questions. Even before the dog came home, the trainer sent regular updates (photos and video), gave us reading/video material to reference and watch in order to learn how to properly handle the dog, and happily answered even the most silly of questions. The trainer helped us to become part of a whole support network of handlers and SDs and was clearly invested in what was best for each tea.
                                    Make sure they are compatible
                                    You really do get what you pay for.
                                    Research and ask for references.

                                    Here are some links to help in your journey!

                                    RED FLAGS (programs to avoid)

                                    A red flag is something so significantly wrong it would cause any legitimate program or trainer to cringe at the thought. Ethical programs do not operate this way.


                                    How to choose your service or assistance dog program

                                    There are many factors to consider when choosing an Assistance Dog program. First, you must identify your individual needs and decide if a working dog is right for you. Every person needs to weigh the benefits of partnering with an Assistance Dog against the drawbacks. Once you have decided a working dog is right for you, finding a program that suits your needs is the next step.