14 July 2011

Priorities and Entitlements

I will start this off by saying that I just need to vent here. smile

I am on a number of service dog lists and I find it really hard to get my head around something that I have begun to notice of late. It does not appear to be a cross disability thing but an issue that arises through individuals who receive guide dogs from programs. Before I get a lot of replies saying that I am stereotyping one group of people, let me be clear that not everyone who receives a dog from a program is this way.

I followed the rules so to speak with Met. I got him vaxed the way the vet wanted despite my desires to spread out the process and I fed him kibble for most of his life (otherwise known as krapple by those in the rawfood community) I, and especially Met, paid for these mistakes. I spent hundreds of dollars between processed food, supplements, and meds every month to keep him as healthy as possible for years. It was not easy. I had to do without a lot of things- there were rarely luxuries. I accepted my responsibility to him seriously though. I did not have a program to fall back on. Other than a couple of grants I received from the IAADP Veterinary Care Program (VCP) and a donation from a fund-raiser for another service dog team that allowed Met to get Gold Bead Implants (of which I paid a little under half of his bill myself that day), all the expenses Met needed, I somehow managed to provide until the day when I knew it was time to let go.

With Thane, he took the decision-making out of my hands. He could not tolerate processed foods after a bout with Giardia.After much research and realizing that krapple is nowhere near species appropriate for dog, I went to a Prey Model raw diet. I spend anywhere between a hundred twenty-five and two hundred dollars monthly in food for Thane, though others use a variety of techniques whereby they can acquire a lot of the food they need for free or minimal expense. When I am lucky, I think to budget for holiday sales and save substantially so that in the long run the expense balances out to be less per month.

There is a saying in the raw community, pay it now (meaning in food expense) or pay it later (to the veterinarian and to grief after a shortened life) I have no doubt by paying it now, I kept Thane healthier than he would have been. In the past I have spent no more than three hundred bucks a year on veterinary bills with most of that being in preventative screenings- something many teams do not address. Since veterinary care is paid by most guide dog programs rather than the recipients, this additional savings makes this even more baffling to me.

Now I don't expect anyone to go to the lengths I did for Met or even what I have done for Thane (or at least not the majority of service dog handlers any way), but when I read complaints from some of the program guide dog handlers for what they have to spend on a good quality kibble food, it just makes me shake my head. There is literally thousands of dollars put into these dogs trainings so that they can keep their handlers safe. They would give up their lives for us literally and some actually have or have been retired due to injuries caused in the line of duty. It boggles my mind that the people who can actually qualify for a stipend for guide dog expenses and/ or submit the receipts towards their medical expenses for foodstamp determination and Housing section 8 as I do, would feel they need to reduce their dogs care expenses to such a miniscule amount. If it were a child, the attitude would be so different.

I know many who use guide dogs look at it as a tool just like the ADA does. They may bond with the dog for the sake of the work, but not to the level that I or many of my friends do. It is a tool, not a member of the family to them. There are also those who consider it the programs responsibility to pay every medical expense the dog might incur other than the actual food and grooming requirements of non-shedding breeds.  They go into the acquisition as an entitlement rather than as a priviledge. Guide Dog programs, if they charge anything, it is miniscule amounts compared to the hundreds and thousands expected of those applying for mobility service dogs. Perhaps its this *provision* that has made some folks feel they are entitled to have the dog but not to pay for anything beyond thirty bucks a month. Then there's the added grooming expense- hey, you ask for a non-shedding breed, guess what? you best be prepared to pay for a groomer or to take a crash course in grooming yourself.

Often times these very same people who complain about the cost to maintain their guide dog are ones who go out to lunch or dinner at least once a week, go to movies, buy pizza or other takeouts, buy frozen prepared foods at a pricetag that might be able to buy three days of meals if they prepared it themselves, have desert and meat with every meal (neither of which is really healthy btw) go to conventions at a hefty price tag and yet they don't seem to prioritize things so that their dogs diet needs come before all the frills.

In all honesty for those who are on their first dog, I can see the sticker shock to some aspects of canine health especially if they are dealing with SSI income in states where there is no state supplement to the federal allotment, but these dogs are not pets. They are highly trained, put on working dog foods so they can perform their jobs effectively.

I won't get into the amount of pet food poisonings and recalls that continue on a regular basis as that is for another time, but my head just feels lately like it can't stop spinning from entitlement attitudes and poor priorities.


  1. This was a really brave post!

    I had no idea guide dog schools don't charge! Or that they pay for any of the dog's expenses!

    When I applied to the ONE SD program in the country I thought might accept me, it was $20,000 I'd have to raise for the dog! I didn't find any programs that cost less than $5000, and that was over 10 years ago; I assume costs have gone up. (The program denied my application.) Those of us who are "too disabled" or don't have the "right" disabilities, of course, have the choice of no SD or we train them ourselves.

    The amount of money I've had to spend on each SD has increased each time, and is huge, partly because I've become more aware of preventive health issues. I'm shocked. I had no idea there was such disparity in the AD community.

    OTOH, hearing from friends with program dogs (GDs and SDs, both), about the program's rules and requirements for the entire working life of the dog, has made me grateful I don't have to deal with that.

  2. Some guide schools might charge a little bit for the application process or supplies but nothing like the HD and SD community sees.
    I am so with you about the rules and how easy a dog can be reclaimed by the program. I could not work a dog under such strict regimen- even ones where ownership goes to the client that can be revoked.
    To have to do medically what the program wants is enough to make me flee- ie vaccines and sitting to wait on their decisions about medical care- I just could not do it. Can you imagine how bad Thane could ahve got with Lyme if I did that? I mean he already collapsed on the way home on the 7th.
    Then when it comes to retirement-ughhhh
    Once I got the taste of training success though, I could not have gone to a program. You could say I was bitten by the owner training bug- something a program told me I would never succeed at. smile