[nagdu] My Experience of Having My Dog Taken Away

Tara Briggs thflute at gmail.com
Thu Aug 20 20:11:59 UTC 2015

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am sorry you had such a horrible experience.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Aug 19, 2015, at 6:36 PM, S L Johnson via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Marion:
> I’m sending this both to you and the list.  I have nothing to hide.  I don’t 
> mind everyone knowing the trauma I went through.  I am proud that despite 
> this horrible beginning, forty years later, I am still a proud guide dog 
> owner with a wonderful golden by my side.  Please feel free to keep my 
> story.  I hope it helps prove our point that we need complete unconditional 
> ownership.
> The incident was in 1976 with The Guide Dog Foundation.  I had graduated 
> with Hogan, a male golden, in August 1976.  John Byfield had trained Hogan 
> and on class I informed him that the dog pulled much too hard and walked 
> much too fast.  He said it was my job to keep up with him so, I tried my 
> best and graduated with him.  I don’t remember the exact day but, it was 
> just before Christmas 1976 when a trainer showed up at my college dorm to 
> take Hogan.  The reason given was my frequent falls due to multiple 
> sclerosis.  My medical condition had nothing to do with me falling down 
> curbs and stairs.  Hogan had the bad habit of walking very fast right up to 
> the curb or steps without any slowing in pace to let me know a curb or step 
> was coming.  This sudden stop  caused me to lose my balance and fall.  John 
> Beagel and Barry Hatten had both been working with us a lot and Hogan was 
> getting much better and I felt confident with our progress.  Suddenly one 
> day during my very busy holiday performance schedule, I  returned to hear 
> that Barry had been looking for me.  I was not warned of his visit so wasn’t 
> there at the time.  I didn’t hear anything else until two days later when 
> John Beagel showed up and informed me that John Byfield had sent him to pick 
> up Hogan.  I was shocked.  I thought we had been doing so much better.  In a 
> panic, I frantically faxed the contract to my father’s lawyer and was told 
> that I had no choice but to give the dog to the trainer.  I was devastated. 
> I was just minutes away from leaving for the airport to fly home for the 
> Christmas break.  By the time I arrived home minus my wonderful guide, my 
> family and their lawyer had already contacted members of the GDF Board. 
> Immediately my doctor sent information to them and John Beagel and Barry 
> Hatten gave their opinions of my work with Hogan.  The board decided that 
> John Byfield had acted unfairly by taking Hogan.  They agreed with my doctor 
> that I was physically capable of working Hogan as long as he could slow down 
> a bit and not pull so hard.  I got him back right after GDF opened up after 
> New Years.  What should have been a great first Christmas with my new guide, 
> turned out to be a horrible traumatic experience.
> Unfortunately, that wasn’t my only bad experience with John Byfield’s unfair 
> actions.  When Hogan retired due to city stress a few years later, John 
> Byfield again did the same thing in October 1979 after another graduate 
> complained to him about my very young new dog, Bart’s behavior at a solo 
> recital I had given the previous day.  As I was singing, Bart, a very 
> playful young immature male golden, was lying at my feet and I was holding 
> the leash.  Bart very quietly and sneakily slipped his somewhat loose chain 
> collar and ran around the audience trying to play.  I immediately called him 
> and after a bit more frantic running around he came back to me and I put his 
> collar back on.  I kept a tighter hold on the leash and collar and Bart’s 
> behavior and guiding were fine the rest of the day.  The next day, My 
> accompanist, also, another GDF grad called to complain to John Byfield.  I 
> suddenly get a call that someone was on their way to my apartment to pick up 
> Bart.  I wasn’t given the chance to defend myself or Bart who was still so 
> young and managed to slip out of that too loose collar.  All John Byfield 
> cared about is how upset this other graduate was about what Bart had done 
> and that it was my fault.  He said that it looked bad for GDF and it was 
> obvious I should not have a guide dog.  I wasn’t given the chance to fight 
> because the board wouldn’t listen this time, they just took the word and 
> reacted to the pressure from of another grad.  We all know Stuff happens 
> with new dogs and although I was also very embarrassed, I knew that it wasn’t 
> the end of the world and no excuse to have my dog taken away.  This left me 
> alone in a questionable neighborhood without my dog.  I was terrified to be 
> walking alone with just a cane.  Two nights later after leaving the drug 
> store with my medications, I was mugged by a group of teen boys who grabbed 
> me saying, “now you don’t have that dog for protection so, we got you, give 
> us your purse and bag of meds”.  I was so afraid of walking alone after that 
> night that I had to stay with friends until I could get accepted to another 
> guide dog school a few months later.
> After those traumatic experiences, I will never attend a school that will 
> not give me unconditional ownership.  It has been many years since then but, 
> the horror and trauma remain as clear today.  I still feel very vulnerable 
> and I’m still afraid to walk alone without a dog by my side.  I’m still very 
> worried if I need to ask for a trainer to help with any issues even though I 
> own the dog.  Those two experiences left me with the constant fear of 
> suddenly without reason having my dog taken away.  I realize it will not 
> happen due to my ownership but the knot of fear is always there.
> .  Another story shows how my having complete ownership allowed me to keep 
> my dog.  In February 2002, a serious back injury from afall on the ice along 
> with a severe relapse of multiple sclerosis, I ended up having to use a 
> manual wheelchair.  At that time, I was working Cinnamon, a golden from 
> Leader Dogs.  With no other way to get Cinnamon out, get myself to medical 
> appointments and do shopping and other errands, I taught Cinnamon to guide 
> me in the wheelchair.  When Leader Dogs found out over a year later, they 
> disagreed with her guiding me in the wheelchair.  Despite the evaluation by 
> two well-known wheelchair guide dog trainers,  who said we were an excellent 
> very well-trained safe wheelchair guide team, leader still refused to 
> acknowledge it could be done.  Due to the contract I had signed, I owned 
> Cinnamon but, Leader Dogs still owned the harness and could ask for it back 
> at any time.  So, I gave them the harness, collar, tags leashes and ID card 
> which all said Leader Dogs on them.  I got a harness for Cinnamon and 
> continued to work her until her retirement many years later.  With Cinnamon’s 
> help, I gradually got back the strength and stamina to walk again and when 
> she finally retired in 2008 I was able to train with Tara, my golden who 
> walked slow and helped with balance.
> As you can see, I’ve lived through the negatives of not having ownership and 
> the positives of having it.  I hope my stories will help our fight for 
> complete and unconditional ownership.
> Sandra
> <S L Johnson.vcf>
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