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Return to Dog [PART 3]

DV SpookyCat      Monday, March 18, 2019

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Biker Trash Need Not Apply”
     In “Return to Dog Part 2” I talked about the evaluation process and the overall cost of a failed evaluation or washed out dog. Unfortunately, there are a boatload of self-ascribed trainers, and certified ones, that think they know a thing or two about service dogs but have zero real world knowledge about what it’s like for handlers and service dogs. For them it’s all obedience and manners. They balk when we say we need a dog that will be disobedient and strong willed. They cannot grasp why we need to test a dog to the brink of its tolerances. They’ve never been assaulted by strangers or slept for three days, in response to a stressful trip to a store.
     Sadly, this week, someone made a judgement based on ignorance and appearances to stop my TADSAW trainer’s evaluation and denied my adoption of a shelter dog. Obviously, it wasn’t said this way. It was buried in euphemism and hand washing, but one of the gifts of PTSD is reading people. I’d been at the shelter for three days. I’d met several dogs. Brought my husband to meet the dogs. Drug one of my kids up there to meet the dogs. I’d told the staff repeatedly that my trainer would be the final say. Everything was hunky dory til he walked in.
     I saw the double take immediately. They saw tattoos and leather. Before the evaluation even started, I had to reassure the staff member that he was a dog trainer, because he was trying to take the leash and she wasn’t letting go. Her face was stamped with horror. The dog had clearly never been taught leash manners and was more puppy than dog, so he didn’t like being kept at heel. His preferred method of “walking” is jumping on the staff and running. Given his propensity, this is how my trainer opted to see how he reacted to being frustrated. Keep him at a heel. There was no yelling, alpha rolls, or any of that macho bullshit, just firm “heel” then take a few steps, and “heel”. It was too much for the young staffer that fancies herself a budding behaviorist. She stopped it, in under two minutes, and took the dog inside, offering to get a supervisor when challenged.
     Twenty minutes later, a wave of managers of things, came and went in a conference room, as they all denied knowing anything about my trainer having been vetted by the city and doing these evaluations in the past. One suggested trying again with more planning, and maybe getting the media involved, as good optics for the city and TADSAW. No one had time that day, to confirm my trainer’s credentials, or would admit if they knew how. The last one said she was a trainer but couldn’t help. She said to come back when she wasn’t there, on Monday, and talk to someone else about setting up one of these evaluations. When asked if she’d hold this candidate for the two days until the right person was at the shelter, she said no. She tried to excuse that with her own doubts over the dog’s suitability, but I’d not seen anything to support her assertions that he was timid, fearful, or too shy.
     PRO TIP: If you want to push for media involvement and good optics, I don’t suggest leaving a gleeful message on a veteran’s voicemail that says the dog is adopted and reiterating that you don’t think he was the right dog. “Good luck!” From my perspective, it looked a lot like a bunch of people judging my military veteran trainer by how he looks, and denying an adoption to another disabled veteran, because *optics.* That’s one of the things that makes TADSAW superior to hiring generic trainers. So many of the trainers are veterans and handlers themselves. They know what it’s like *out there* and prepare us for it. The other benefit is that our group training classes become their own form of peer to peer support. For many of us, this is the only contact we have with other people, outside our homes.
     I really am unsure if I want to go through this again. Rescues are so finnicky and refuse to acknowledge me when I don’t want a stranger in my home for “home checks” and am resistant to signing a contract that grants them access to my home at any time after adoption. Now, I have to deal with ignorant and judgey city employees too? Every time I think I’m ready, I rub shields with one of these people that is an animal lover and thinks all humans are dog shit, and I go back to thinking it’s just not worth the time and effort. I’ll keep having my kids run into stores for me, cancelling plans, and not leaving my house. For now, I’m retreating and will wait for my trainer to trip over a dog and hope for the best. I’m unfollowing the pet adoption groups and cancelling my craigslist ad. I was so certain that this was the right dog that I bought him a bed and some other stuff. I knew I wanted another dog, so I never put away the kennel or grooming supplies. It’s time to do that, now.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I keep getting asked why I am not going to the media or calling for fire missions. The truth is, a mix of self preservation and the greater good. Any bad press will, ultimately, only hurt the good staffer and the animals with reduced adoptions and community support. It is being addressed with management and we are working to get the staffers trained on what to expect from a SD evaluation. As of this writing, I'm inclined to believe that this was more ignorance of service dogs than discrimination, but only slightly. The rescue world is fraught with unchecked prejudices that bleed out in small ways. If you're in rescue, my only request is that you look deeper than the surface with the people that are trying to help you.


Click Here For Part 4

Article written by: DV SpookyCat; She doesn't purr but she will tell you if you're an asshole.

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