Why are you hatin’ on Siberian Huskies?

I’m not!

Siberian Huskies are a beautiful, hard-working breed. They are independent thinkers. They can run for miles and haul heavy loads behind them. Did I mention they are beautiful? 

They are also ranked #4 for dog bites. They are very highly prey driven. They have an instinctual “escape” need.  They are bolters. They are  a stubborn breed that needs a strong, experienced owner.

Do I think Siberian Huskies can make it as service dogs? For an adult who has experience with this breed, yes. For a young child, who screeches, and flaps hands, and also want to bolt. No. 

I simply picture a young child, tethered to a strong Sibe, door open, squirrel running in the yard. 

Did you just shudder?

Once again, I do think that for an adult who is familiar with this breed, they could be a great service dog. 

Not for my child. 

Todays letter is from the founder of Project2Heal. It was sent to Global Giving. 

Will someone PLEASE listen before a tragedy occurs with the name “Pepsi Pups” attached to it? 

Dear Mr. Heckilnger:

 

My name is Charlie Petrizzo. I am the founder and CEO of Project2Heal. Project2Heal is a non profit organization that performs a number of functions for children with disabilities. Primarily we breed and train Labrador retriever puppies for children with special needs ranging from burn victims to down syndrome to autism. Our breeding stock come from a woman who has been breeding Labrador retrievers for over 50 years. She began her breeding to provide dogs to the Seeing Eye foundation in Morristown, New Jersey.  Today she helps organizations like mine to provide the best genetics available for service dog jobs.

 

The nature/nurture paradigm holds true with respect to dogs. Nearly one third of the adult dog’s disposition and temperament as well as its ability to work will be the direct result of its genetic makeup. Therefore the parents utilized in the breeding process are critical. The early environment, especially the four to twelve week age is also critical to the development of a puppy and subsequently the ability of that puppy to endure the training necessary to become a true service dog. For seven years now we have donated our puppies to organizations like  North Star Dogs as well as training some of our pups on our own for the needs of local children.  Our dogs have an extremely high rate of success because of our thorough pedigree reviews and enriched early socialization programs.

 

It is my understanding that the Pepsi Corporation has recently decided to give a $50,000 grant or donation to Lea Kaydus who has decided to raise a litter of  Siberian Huskies for placement with children with autism. In my professional opinion there are a number of red flags that your organization should seek out information on prior to finalizing your decision if you haven’t already done so as this sounds like a recipe for disaster.

 

First, no experienced service dog professional would pick a Siberian Husky as the breed of choice for working with children with special needs. The single most important characteristic or temperamental trait that a dog must possess to work as a service dog is a “forgiving disposition”. Children with special needs will pull tails, pull ears, grab skin, etc. It is for this reason that Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers are the most sought after dogs to be used with these children. The demeanor of these breeds in general is a forgiving one and also a submissive one. They are very accepting of the idiosyncrasies of special needs children.

 

Closely related to this trait is the trait of intuition. Retrieving breeds that have been developed over hundreds of years to work in very close proximity to their “master” (i.e., sitting next to them in a boat or a blind patiently waiting to receive their cue to retrieve) have developed an intuitive nature that often allows them to perceive when the child that they are serving may need them most. This is especially true for children with Autism who have what are referred to as “Meltdowns” which are episodes of extreme anger or excitement. The last thing you want in such a situation is a dog who may misinterpret or misread the intention of a child who, with arms flailing,  may run at the dog and grab its ears or tail.  As a breeder of Labrador retrievers I generally do not have to be too concerned about this  issue because of the typical nature of the pups that are produced from our pedigrees.

 

You may ask “Why not the Siberian Husky”? Well, we know that the domesticated dog has evolved from the European Grey Wolf.  How far removed a specific dog breed  is from the wolf can provide a general insight about its temperament or disposition when it might be tested in a situation such as the one I described above. Consider the physiological attributes of a wolf: a thick furry coat, a bushy tail that often curls over the back,  mutli colored hair pigmentation including white, a narrow skull and snout, prick or stand up ears, brown or blue eyes. Compare those physiological traits to those of the Siberian Husky.  The Husky still possesses all of these physical attributes. This should tell you something.

 

The domestic dog is a neotenized version of the wolf.  Neotony is the biological phenomenon of a species maintaining the juvenile (puppy)characteristics of a predecessor species into adulthood.  From the standpoint of dog breeds, in general,  those breeds that are “further removed physiologically” from the ancestral species of the European Grey wolf will more than likely maintain a greater number of the puppy behaviors of that species into adulthood.

 

Now, consider the physical attributes of retrievers. They have a very blocky or square skull with a short square snout. They have drop ears as opposed to prick ears. They possess no white hair pigmentation. Their hair is a double coat as opposed to the thick fur of the northern breeds. The tails come straight out of of their backs as opposed to curling over the back.These are the physical attributes of very young wolf pups.

 

In summary, the retriever is as far removed from the adult version of its predecessor species as possible. This is clearly evidenced through the physiological traits of the adult  retriever relative to the adult wolf.  Compare this to the Siberian Husky which possesses nearly all of the physical attributes of the adult wolf and you can clearly see  from the standpoint of assessing physical attributes why professionals would choose one breed relative to another when working with special needs children. In my opinion, the choice of a first time service dog breeder to chose a litter of Siberian Huskies because that is what she has, should raise a red flag for Pepsi.  Ot would certainly raise a red flag for me if I were consulting on such a placement.

 

Siberian Huskies are wonderful working dogs, not service dogs. They are very driven. Their work is primarily that of endurance; pulling heavy weights over long distances at the urging of their master. They are not however a good choice for the average family as a pet. In my opinion as a service dog breeder they are a poor choice to be used with children as a service dog. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. However, when you are considering the safety of children I would submit that the responsible thing to do is to use the standard that has proven itself time and again. That standard of excellence is found in well bred and socialized Labrador and Golden retrievers.

 

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

 

Sincerely,

Charlie Petrizzo

Founder/CEO

Project2Heal

www.project2heal.org

 

A letter to Global Giving and Pepsi

Followers on this blog know that I have been voicing my concerns about Animals For Autism since August. Our concerns have been brushed aside by Pepsi and Global Giving. After all “How hard can it be to train a dog?” and “You must just have a personal problem with Lea Kaydus.”

I will be the first to admit that I was a total novice going into this mess. I was naive. I overlooked glaring red flags in my hope to help my daughter. 

Global Giving and Pepsi seem to be doing the same. 

Red flags. They are all over this.

Today I would like to share with you a letter sent to both Global Giving and Pepsi by another Service Dog Organization. This organization has seen first hand the results of “Animals For Autisms” attempt at placing a service dog. Are you listening….?

 

I am writing you on behalf of the community of true service dog providers for children with Autism and the ten children scammed by Ms. Kaydus (who also goes by 3 other names). I know that it was the intent of your company with this grant to do something good, to make a difference, and certainly not to do harm. I believe you are good people, you must be to offer up so many wonderful grant opportunities for organizations needing funding. I imagine, you had no idea what would happen when you made your grant to Ms. Kaydus, and no concept of what service dog placement truly is, what it typically costs, what is involved, and what breeds are most often used. I am sure her proposal sounded like a wonderful thing, to take 10 puppies and raise them up to be life changing service dogs for 10 children with Autism! What a noble endeavor. I know your hearts were in the right place.

What I am having a difficult time with though is what is happening now. I am certain you have seen the stories on the news; heard the anguish of the families given pictures of puppies that were promised to them as service dogs. Pictures of puppies who did not even exist, at least not as the puppies she was promising for one if the pictures was several years old. I wonder have you seen that she pulled her website from the internet? Have you read about the families plights? Do you know they have been calling and emailing Ms. Kaydus to find out what is happening with no response at all? Do you understand that some of these families have even given their own money to Ms. Kaydus and will never see it again nor receive a service dog as promised?

I believe you are intelligent people. Take some time and google Lea Kaydus and read the many new stories and postings from the heartbroken families. Please pay attention to the letters and emails you are receiving from those of us in the community who make the placements Ms.  Kaydus was promising in a correct manner. Do some research. Google Autism Assistance Dog and call the agencies which come up and ask if they would use a Husky as a service dog for a child with Autism or any disability or for that matter, any type of service dog work at all and see what the answer is. I can assure you it will be no. Ask them what the cost is to train a service dog appropriately and you will get answers from $10,000 up. It costs our agency $22,000.00 for every dog we place.  Ask the agency if they can raise one litter of 10 puppies and have every puppy graduate as a service dog. I can assure you even with the best breeding program they can’t be sure the dogs will all graduate. We place over 100 dogs a year and must maintain more than 200 dogs to do so with quality placements.

I hope that Ms. Kaydus did not intend to do harm. She loves her dogs and does not look at her dogs and breed with an open mind. I do know though of at least one placement she made having taken $3,000 from the family and placed an under socialized dog, afraid of everything, and with little to no training with a disabled teenager who had serious mental health issues. I am also working with one of the families who was scammed by her. We are providing them a dog and asking nothing from them in return. I wish we had the resources to help all 10 families. Please consider taking this grant you hoped would do so much good for these children and giving it an agency who can now offer hope to these families. I know you would like to see the faces of these children when they meet their new service dogs, true, well trained, quality dogs for the first time. Help us to help these children by putting your money to good use with an agency who can actually do good and not bring more harm with your funds. Building Ms. Kaydus a facility will only bring even more pain to future families who put their trust in her, I know you do not want to see that or have your name associated with such bad press. Do something good with your money as you intended and let one of us who has a good track record bring a smile to your face and good press for your name.

Please know I am not writing this email hoping you will in turn offer the grant to our organization. We have 13 years of stability behind us and while we as all nonprofits need funding, I am not asking you to provide us any funding. My only intent is that you take an honest, open look at Ms. Kaydus and her service and do not continue to support her. I wish she was the only illegitimate agency out there providing poorly trained service dogs to people to gain a buck but unfortunately she is not. If Ms. Kaydus has anyone who is truly a client and not just a friend pretending to have a dog from her offering support, the family has no idea what a quality trained service dog is and what they can do. I say this because I have seen firsthand the type of dog she produces and am dealing now with one of the families whom she threw to the wayside after making promises she now has no intention of keeping. Honestly, they are much better for having been tossed aside because now they will receive a true, quality trained service dog from our agency. Had Ms. Kaydus delivered one of her husky’s to this family it is at best certain that the dog would not have been a true quality trained service dog and at worse that the child may have been harmed by the dog. This breed has not been bred for such a highly specialized field as Autism Assistance Dog work.

I know mine is not the first correspondence you have had begging you not to help Ms. Kaydus bring harm to even more families already struggling to raise a child with autism. Please listen and learn from those of us taking the time to try to reach out to you and educate you on why it is wrong at every level to support this woman. She simply does not have the experience, the knowledge, the education, nor the ethics to be working with these families and training service dogs. Please do some research and if you can find it in your hearts, please help the families she has already harmed.

With respect,

Karen Shirk, Executive Director 4 Paws For Ability, Inc.
Service Dogs for Children with Disabilities!
253 Dayton Ave. Xenia, Ohio 45385 karen4paws@aol.com
937-376-2781 937-374-0385 937-708-6677 937-376-2720 Fax
www.4pawsforability.org www.4pawsdogs.org

 

No winners

In some “battles” there is no score keeping, no one-upping, no points for the wittiest comeback.

In some “battles” the participants are children. Children who sometimes can not even speak for themselves. Who need help from those around them to speak up when something is wrong.

Because they can’t.

To make standing up for a child who is unable to do so into a win-lose situation is wrong.

In some issues there is no winner or loser. For the ones who have “lost” have nothing to lose. They are simply amazing children who have been dealt an additional roadblock called autism.

Cover Your Butt Much????

Once again…I will let you make your own conclusions.

Taken tonight at 6:17pm. Read the “additional information” carefully…there may be a test later.

     
Screen Shot 2012-01-08 at 6.17.35 PM

Now this screen shot. Taken at 6:22pm.

  
Screen Shot 2012-01-08 at 6.22.24 PM

Lets add in her response to the post, posted at approximately 9pm.

Ok, Now for the final screen shot of the night, ready? Taken at 9:22pm. Once again, read the “Additional Information”.

Screen Shot 2012-01-08 at 9.22.16 PM

Until next time…..

 

 

School shoes, again.

Back to School Croc Style
Thank you to Crocs for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about Crocs’ new Back to School line. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

It’s that time of year again. Didn’t we do this just 12 months ago? I think I still have the scars from the last time.

What am I talking about?

Trying shoes on Faith. Faith has a love/hate relationship with shoes. Or should I say, she loves to hate them. However in our modern society, the rules dictate that she wear shoes to school.

The only two exceptions to Faith’s “love to hate” rule are Crocs and “light-up” shoes. We have been a Crocs family since we first spotted them back in 2004. We fell in love with Crocs for a different reason than most people. Most people pointed to Crocs wide range of colors as a factor in purchase. We bought them because they FIT.

Faith, as part of her physical disabilities, has an extremely wide, tall, inflexible foot. She also has autism which means she does not like her foot touched. For me, that equals a shoe nightmare. None of the local brick and mortar stores carried shoes that fit her. We turned to online shopping, but as she grew, we started to run out of options. Enter the Crocs Beach. This is the original slip-on that most people think of when they hear the word Crocs. They were roomy (check), they were super light (check), there was nothing that poked or pinched (check), and they slipped on without a struggle (last check)! Faith wore her original Crocs all year long. We had them in so many colors. Orange, light pink, dark pink, red, green, blue, and yellow. We had this “shoe” thing down pat.

If I'm wearing an orange and pink shirt, I should wear orange and pink shoes, right?

Until she started school.

While not outright banned at our current school, the original Crocs slip-on is frowned on as school wear. Which left us back at square one. Trying to find a shoe, any shoe, that would fit her.

But not this year! This year Crocs has a whole new line of School Approved footwear! And they are super cute!  There are 13 new styles of shoes for boys and girls from Kindergarten all the way to Eighth Grade.

Dawson

These are not the Crocs I am used to!

Hover

Are these not adorable?

Hover for girls

I want a pair!  All the shoes in the new line feature the same comfort kids (and adults) have come to expect from Crocs, but wrapped in a new, closed-toed and closed-heeled, school-approved outside!  One item in my back to school shopping list just got much easier!

To see the whole line of new school approved Crocs, please watch the video below.  The music video is interactive – if you see a shoe you would like to look at more closely, click on it to go directly to that shoes’ pages on the Crocs official site.  And psssssttttt…..there is an Easter Egg hidden in the video. While the video is playing, click around on stuff. You may be surprised!
(Ok, here’s a hint: it flies!)

Visit the Crocs Back to School Kids’ Site to look around.  While you’re there you may enter a giveaway for a family vacation to San Diego with NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

Back to school, allergy style

In our household, preparing to go back to school is a heck of a lot more than school clothes shopping and meeting teachers. A back to school tradition that we also have to incorporate is allergy awareness.

Faith is allergic to peanuts, all tree nuts, and egg.

Peanuts. Peanuts can kill her. Yes, she is THAT allergic.

We have been incredibly lucky that we have a supportive school system and Faith’s classmate’s parents “get it”. We have asked for, and received a few adjustments to help keep Faith safe….and alive. I like her alive. We have asked that her class be a nut free zone. We have asked that after lunch all kiddos in Faith’s class wash their hands and in the lunch room, one half of one table be designated as a nut-free zone. She is starting her fourth year at this school and so far these precautions have kept her from having any reactions at school. (Knock on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder….)

This year I am also going to include super cute Allergy Cards from Tiny Prints in her lunch box and backpack. They are an adorable way to remind others of what Faith is allergic to. Click the picture below to take a peek at everything Tiny Prints has to offer for back to school this year.

What is a “out of the ordinary” back to school preparation in your household?

My John Hancock

Special Education Recertification

I’m feeling pretty nervous. At 1:30 today we are meeting with Faith’s school for her special education recertification. Right now we have amazing services. Really, we have even more than we had hoped for when we made the decision to enter Faith into school 3 years ago. Faith has made AMAZING progress in the last 3 years, and I truly feel it is due to the wonderful support services she currently receives. I have no idea what services they are looking to keep, change or drop.

What I do know, they want to change her eligibility category from “Autism” to “Multiple Disabilities”. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Thoughts?

***** Update****

Here is the word for word from her new evaluation. Have I mentioned how much I love this school district? :)

With regard to continued Special Education services, Faith has been served under an Autism category for services. While the team agrees that this disability is valid, it does not reflect (in total) the additional and on-going physical health problems that impact Faith at school on a daily basis. Due to Faith’s on-going health difficulties in addition to her disability of Autism, the team recommends that Faith’s disability category be changed to that of Multiple Disabled. The team views that Faith has on-going health difficulties in combination with her disability of Autism. This combination requires a program and a level of support which cannot be met solely for a single disability.