The unfortunate letter I had to write as a caregiver to her husband's service dog agency...
Train a Dog Save A Warrior Program,
We are appreciative of the opportunity TADSAW has given Marco and his family receiving his service dog Jan 16, 2012. Living with PTSD and TBI can be extremely frustrating, Marco's new service dog relieved so many symptoms drastically and quickly. Even the caregivers felt less burdened because the veteran had a new battle buddy at his side to help him.
The support the trainer gives as well as the accountability and education are vital and necessary for the effectiveness of the service dog. Soldiers left to their own find it becoming another task they fail at, which is what the PTSD service dog is there to PREVENT. To prevent suicide, depression, high anxiety, isolation, and other symptoms, and rather give them a place to be successful, feel better about themselves, and have a partner as they battle with PTSD who is always there and unconditional.
Because TADSAW has not kept their word to meet for weekly trainings and be available to communicate about issues that may come up with the dog, Marco has not progressed as he had hoped. Marco wanted to meet goals of training to be able to have his dog with him in the workplace as soon as possible, work being his number one stressor and place of need for support.
As a caregiver, I am extremely concerned about the integrity of TADSAW and am apprehensive about recommending them to other veterans. This situation has brought much frustration into the home we do not need. In no way does there need to be further aggravating stress or concerns, especially from a foundation who is supposed to be offering relief, healing, and support. It has since become my role to remind of training goals, training commands, reinforcements, etc because of the TBI involved in our veterans health. A role I am not happy to take on considering TADSAW promised to provide this.
We are seeking a quick resolution and the follow through TADSAW initially offered, with maintained consistency, quality, and compassion until the service dog is FULLY prepared and trained.
This letter was sent a month after a phone conversation discussing the same situation of which we'd received no real change from. It was a call my husband made himself. I remember it distinctly, as it triggered him afterward for a few days he was so upset. Upset because he was basically told by the director that his trainers were extremely busy and that he had a lot of dogs and not enough help, etc etc. He had never really offered help, compassion, or a solution to my veteran husband. According to the director, he remembers no such conversation in March. This was his follow up after he received my letter:
Good morning!!! First of all, I apologize for what has and is happening. This is the first I have heard of anything not being followed up on. I wish you had contacted me sooner, as I would have gotten involved,. TADSAW is committed to the training of the Warriors and their dogs. And now that I am aware of the situation, I will stay in contact and more involved. There should be steady progression if the training .I never received any phone calls from Marco.during March, that i remember but that is not an excuse. And because of a lack of Trainers in Austin, my trainer from San Antonio was going to Austin on a weekly basis, as what I had been informed. Part of the warrior's commitment is also to travel to the training, and this program is a partnership between all of the parties.
I apologize for what has transpired in the past, and I assure you that the program and training will be moving forward from today on. Marcos may have to start traveling to New Braunfels for training, until another trainer in Austin comes on board.
I appreciate your contacting me and you have my commitment to see Marcos and the other Warriors thru the program. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
As always, I remain,
After this, not much happened for a couple of weeks. Vaccination papers were not being furnished, the trainer said the director had them. The director said later it was the trainer who had them, and the trainer was still not communicating well with my husband, not making appointments or answering any concerns. So I published the letter online and asked others for help. One in particular, Torrey Shannon, contacted the agency herself asking questions. This got a response and I quickly received this voicemail...
First off, what does Marco's application process have to do with any of this? Why is that even brought up? Are they insinuating they are doing us favors? Isn't their organization in the business of awarding dogs to soldiers who deserve them because they fought for the country and did not leave the war unscathed? OK, moving on.
Spring 2012: We purchased our own new vaccinations and medications just to be sure the pup was covered and cared for. Not something we were expecting to incur cost-wise immediately. We are grateful to an Austin organization called Emancipet who made this a little more affordable to do. Marco was quickly referred to a new trainer whom met with him the weekend of April 28, he travelled to San Antonio to meet her. I am not sure she is a part of TADSAW, but perhaps may have been putting in a favor for the organization. I am updating this to you July 6th. That was the last time he saw her, and this is why: She asked him to look up the K-9 citizenship requirements online and train his dog to them on his own, then call her to test him. My husband has TBI and PTSD, with some speech, memory, and cognitive issues. How is this the best way to help a warrior train a service dog? Again, he felt frustrated and as if he was failing. We were told this would be an approximate 12 week training duration, meeting weekly. We agreed to travel to San Antonio whenever necessary. The entire purpose of the dog was continuing to be reversed on him, and I believe because of the lack of professionalism and commitment on the part of the agency.
We honestly are not quite clear where to go with this next, aside from just returning the dog, which he would really like to try and avoid doing since they have already bonded so nicely.
To be continued...
It has come to my attention I may have been impersonated by someone writing on other blogs and to media as myself, possibly concerning this matter. Please be advised: I have not emailed or commented on this matter elsewhere. I am NOT sending any campaign letters about TADSAW to anyone. If you are doubtful whether or not I've written something, always feel free to contact me with a question. Thank You.
I have information that shows TADSAW may have also been a victim as well, possibly by a rogue trainer.
To be continued...
My Husband's response to the situation: What's TADSAW is TADSAW, My Issue is Sleepless Nights
Today is January 27, 2013. We celebrated one year of having Echo on Martin Luther King Jr. day. Back in December, TADSAW helped us through a situation at Park University by speaking to thier disabilities coordinator. My husband decided it was not worth attending the university after their inital reaction, however, and opted to just continue his undergraduate degree elsewhere where he was more welcomed.
At that time, TADSAW also gave us news that they had a new trainer in our area and we could begin lessons! After attempting to contact the new trainer in December, with no reply whatsoever, we realized this wasn't leading anywhere good. I received a voicemail last week that the trainer wasn't "working out like they thought." Again. For the fourth time now, built up hopes and let down. We are currently looking into options outside of the organization in order to lessen the frustration of my husband and move on with the dog helping him.
April 15, 2013: TADSAW is still not active in our service dog's training. I am extremely disappointed. We had to submit all kinds of information to this agency to "receive" a service dog, including medical information, personal reference letters from congregational leaders in our community, and military documents. I am actually nervous about the safety of our information at this point. We received nothing in return, except the dog, whom we could have rescued from a shelter ourselves without the intrusion of privacy into our personal lives, if all I wanted was a pet. I have asked for paperwork on the service dog since we received him, and they've had nothing to offer. I really am appalled at the lack of concern. I believe a service dog agency should have quality certified trainers on staff, have consistency in trainers to follow a soldier through his training entirely, have support resources for the wounded warrior; such as funnel organizations that want to assist in subsidizing the cost of pet care and supplies, along with many other things. I cannot wrap my mind around why they are still allowed to operate. This is like working with the VA. Smh.
October 10, 2013 Echo's Un-Official Early Retirement Well, this is it. Time to say uncle. After a year and a half of trying desperately to pick up the pieces of a service dog system that completely fell apart for us, Echo is staying home.
I cannot say I am thrilled about this.
It was actually advised by our mental health practitioner that Marco stop trying to train Echo because of the stress it was causing him. I understand why the situation is irreparable for the soldier to remedy, he really was against all odds. TADSAW (Train A Dog Save A Warrior) set it up that way by failing to keep their commitment. I think he showed tremendous effort to make it work, but the fact is, it is just too frustrating to do. I mean, can you even imagine? It's hard to teach a dog basic manners for a regular person, that's like me handing a hopeful seeing eye dog to my blind daughter and telling her "ok, you train it then it can help you!" She doesn't have the dog training skills or the vision. Dumb. I am very angry about the situation as a whole, it took a potentially healing experience and turned it into complete shit. It folded into itself and caused the exact problems it was supposed to be relieving.
Admittedly I don't want a pet to take care of. Our daughter, and my husband, and three other kids are quite enough thank you. Not to mention spending money on a dog that isn't providing his service as intended? Of course, however, our youngest child is attached at the hip to Echo, so I am definitely in a conundrum. In my heart of hearts, I still want Marco to receive the type of service dog he deserves to assist him. I am pretty sure that won't be what he desires any longer as this experience has left a horrible taste in his mouth.
I would not recommend anyone fund the efforts of TADSAW, nor apply for their services. I am appalled they are allowed to continue raising money claiming to help soldiers.