|a very early start today.|
Today's post is very personal one. In case I am getting a bit too angry while writing it, please forgive me. It is a story I've meant to tell you for a while already, but then thought, it might be smart to rather wait until the storm has settled a bit. For the ones visiting the Fishbowl on a regular basis, you know about Emma, our beloved Labrador puppy. And you know, that she is in training to become an assistant dog. She is learning to pick stuff from the floor, to open and to close doors, carry my grocery bags once in a while, or even put the laundry in the washing machine. Amazing, ey.
When I've first learned about the possibility of assistant dogs and about the variety there is, I actually couldn't believe it. There are so many choices, some dogs are even able to smell, when their owner is about to have an epileptic seizure. And they will warn them, so they're able to prevent the attack. Assistant dogs mean a lot of freedom to many disabled or severly ill people. They'll help them to live an independent life and to become more active than ever before. So I thought, it might be a great idea to go down this path; first to make my life easier as well, to be able to travel with Emma in any direction (assistant dogs are even allowed to fly beside their owners), and last but not least, to give a her a purpose. Labradors love to work and to please their human.
As Emma was already living with us at that point, the only chance to train her, was to do it myself. At the time, self-training was only possible in the Berlin area through a certain non-profit club. I became a member to the club, paid my anually fee, and we've started. In the beginning everything was fine and it was a lot of fun, to watch Emma learning quickly and enjoying all the attention. We've went there at least once a week and she made surprising progress.
The club did tell us though, Emma would have to pass the exam for assistant dogs, before she would be turning five years. She was almost four, when we did start. Almost eight months went on, we've worked consequently on her skills and patiently paid for the training hours, but my questions about the exam went almost unanswered. It was quite frustrating, but the coaches tried to calm me, telling me everything was just as it should be.
Then suddenly, another exam was mentioned. Emma was already training for ten months and we were told, she would have to make a test, if she is at all eligible to become an assistant dog. I am sorry, after close to a year of training. This is ridiculous, don't even start telling me, but caused by the lack of an alternative, we kept on going. The exam was postponed and postponed, and Emma turned five.
The coaches and the Chairwoman of the club told us, that they could get an extra approval to go on with the test, after she had turned five. But of course, we would have to do the test first. A test that suddenly consisted of two parts. Don't laugh, but we did part one. It was horrible, far too stressful and not at all adjusted to my skills; we walked the city for miles (me on crutches as you know), crossed a super busy parc with drug addicts, had coffee in a crowded tourist café and had to take the underground, which I almost never do, as Berlin's underground is a neverending story of steps and stairs. I was totally stressed out and so was Emma, and some things didn't work out perfectly. Who wonders, I might add sarcasticly. At the end of this test, we were left with another hideous information. There was actually a third part to the exam; a medical one. The club suddenly demanded a so called hd examination, to check on Emma's hips. This kind of examination would have been no joke at all, meaning a general anaesthesia for a perfectly healthy dog. I am sorry, you got to be kidding me. After more than a year of training, you're coming up with this? Seriously. At this point, that was it for us. We would have never gone through with such a procedure and I am not even talking about the costs, but the well being of Emma.
On our way back home, the husband and me, we've both exploded. Pretty bad, believe me. And we did quit all the crap within a second. We've canceled our membership, explaining the move in a letter. Training for Emma was done.This was just too much and even with the perspective of not having an assistant dog at all, this was nothing we could have tolerated any longer.
What followed after the letter, I will not go there, but it was dirty. Very dirty. Only that much, all the way we were told that these are the general standards to become an assistant dog. Later, we've found out, that the chairwoman of the club, was also one of the presidents to the occupational union for dog coaches in Berlin. Meaning, she was the creator and the controller of those standards in one person. Highly unprofessional. A friend of us, who is a brilliant dog coach herself, went on doing research and after a while it was clear, there are no such standards; no hd examination, no age restriction, nothing. I am still asking myself, why this happened? I don't know, are they acting ignorant, are they totally stupid or is it for the money (test plus examination alone would have costed us at least 1000,-€. no mentioning of that in advance, of course)? Even if they're just not capable of taking on the responsibility for what they've promised to their club members, it is pretty disgusting how much they'll let people down. People, who trust the organisation and who rely on the concept of assistant dogs. Only thinking about it, makes me angry. Really angry. Again.
The story has a good ending though. The husband and me, we had given up. But the friend I've already mentioned; she found a proper school for Emma. Since February this year, a professional education center is offering self-training for dogs in Berlin. And what can I tell you, we did start today. A whole new experience, believe me.