Awhile ago, I spoke with a woman who said she had a hearing dog. Actually, she had purchased a Golden retriever puppy and now had a very nice pet who helped alert her in some ways. She told me a woman had offered to train the dog for her for $35 an hour. She asked me if I thought that was too expensive. I didn’t know what to tell her. I had just interviewed two puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) who said those service dogs go through six months of training and the dogs are given to the disabled without charge.
It breaks my heart to hear of situations like this where the person needs help and goes to all this trouble and expense in order to provide for themselves what they can receive free from organizations such as Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). That is one of the main reasons I wanted to publish a book that brought into public awareness what is already available, and what the dogs are like. What better way than to share the inside stories of those who care for the puppies, preparing them to be confident and secure, willing to learn, and ready to work? From those who take care of the breeder dogs to those who raiser and socialize them for over a year, these volunteers create the foundations that the trainers build upon.
In order to better publicize this work and the services that the dogs provide, Hedy and I will be joining raisers and breeder keepers from GDB and CCI whose stories are in A Gift of Puppies to talk and demonstrate and answer questions. My hometown girls, Jeanette Frey and Patty Sambrailo, brought their pups to the Lake County Arts Council for an event on February 25. Our next one will be on Saturday, March 25, with the Elk Grove Puppies with a Vision. On May 6, Hedy and I will be at a big GDB Fun Day with San Diego puppies and raisers from three huge groups there. I hope to have an event and signing with every contributor to the book—even the ones in Colorado. That’s where Hedy’s raisers live. I’ll also be sharing at puppy and service clubs. Hope to see you at one of our events!
Schedule so far:
February 25, 2012 Lake County Arts Council, Lake county, CA
March 24, 2012; PetCo store in Elk Grove, CA; 11:30 – 4:30 PM
April 12, 2012 Ukiah Puppy Club
April 11, 2012 Clearlake Rotary, Clearlake, CA
May 6, 2012 Fun Day, San Diego, CA
I know. The touring schedule is grueling, but you do what you gotta do. No, really, spending my time with generous-hearted people and great dogs—what could be better? I always have so much fun. There’s only one problem…how do I stay on my vegan diet? Will someone pass me a carrot?
Fran RansleyJune 6, 2012 - 10:47 PM
Sandra Wade shared the link to your blog and I enjoyed reading it, especially about the dogs visiting the children. It brought back memories of the guide dog demonstrations for my 4-H club when I was a 6th grader.
I want to comment about the woman with the “hearing dog” that someone had offered to train for her. There’s another side to this issue. When my old dog died in 2009, I looked into the possibility of getting a trained hearing dog. I knew that I would qualify, as I am almost completely deaf.
Yes, they are available free of charge. But the agencies that train and place these dogs, including CCI, had pretty rigorous conditions that an applicant had to meet. For example, I think it was CCI that required an outside pen for the service dog, that had to be attached to the house, so that the owner could let the dog out the door presumably to do its business. It would be difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to build an outside dog run attached to my house, because of slope and the way the house, doors, driveway, etc. are situated.
Another requisite was to have another person available to assist with the training. I live alone, and I don’t know anyone who could put their own life on hold to be with me and a new dog during the two week training period.
And finally, all the agencies had lengthy waiting lists. Since most if not all these agencies would not place a hearing dog in a household that already had a dog, I would have had to be without a dog until my name came up on the list. I did not feel that this was a safe situation, so I decided instead of waiting months or years for a hearing dog, to adopt a rescue dog.
It is amazing how quickly a dog will train itself. All the dogs I’ve had over the last 25 years have been quick to understand and accommodate my hearing loss (a lot quicker than people, I might add). If I pay attention to my dogs, they will alert me when someone is here, or something is happening. I haven’t figured out yet how to train them to alert me when the smoke alarm goes off, but I think there are training books available.
So I think it’s okay for some people to get their own dog and train it themselves. I have two dogs now that do a really good job of meeting my needs.
Thanks for spreading the word about how wonderful dogs are!
Carolyn Wing GreenleeJuly 15, 2012 - 9:18 PM
Hi, Fran. This is such surprising information! I had no idea! I appreciate your sharing. All I have known personally are the policies of Guide Dogs for the Blind. They don’t care if you have other animals, including dogs, and I didn’t have to wait very long. So I have been ignorant of these other requirements—until now.
I’m glad to hear your dogs have responded so well. You are very good with animals. My concern was for the woman who was approached by the lady who said she would train her pet to be a hearing dog or her. One of my good friends paid a lot of money to have her dog trained. The trainer was good with her own dogs, but that didn’t qualify her to handle all dogs. My friend’s dog was not being trained for service; she was simply in need of strategies which would create a responsive, manageable pet. After a year of training, my friend’s dog had still never been on a walk with her owner. The trainer said the dog was not ready yet. She also said she’d never met such a difficult dog. I watched throughout the year as the dog became more unstable and hysterical. Finally, I lent my friend some cesar Millan videos. She tried them on her dog, and they are now living a more harmonious, peaceful life together. Not everyone who calls herself a trainer is qualified, especially when it comes to preparing a dog for a specific service.
There are many people who consider themselves good dog trainers. To train a dog to be someone’s ears—that’s more difficult. I hope the woman who needed the hearing dog was able to get her dog trained for service. One can hope.
Since I wrote this article, I have discovered that CCI does not provide dogs who must alert by scent. Low blood sugar alert dogs and seizure alert dogs are not in their scope of training. As far as I know, there are Dogs 4 Diabetics and other organizations that are privately owned. But I haven’t investigated, so I don’t know for sure. A twelve-year-old girl with Type-1 diabetes told me she had to wait two years for a dog, and it would cost $17,000.
There’s such a great need for all sorts of service dogs. I hope there will be ways to increase the number and reduce the cost of trained dogs. It has been such a blessing to have Hedy. I had no idea it was so difficult to get dogs for other kinds of service.
Hedy barks when the phone rings, and then she gets in the way while I’m trying to get there to answer it. Obviously, she is not a gifted hearing dog.
Thanks again for your informative remarks.
Carolyn and Hedy