[nagdu] My Experience of Having My Dog Taken Away

Rachel Grider rachel.grider at gmail.com
Fri Aug 21 15:55:46 UTC 2015

Please forgive me if this is an ignorant question, but what is the difference between immediate ownership and unconditional ownership?I think I know, but I would like some clarification.

In my mind, living in fear of having your dog taken away is the result of a much bigger issue with schools not allowing unconditional ownership. If I complete all the requirements set forth by a particular school, but I am only granted ownership on the condition that the school can take back my dog if they see fit, I am essentially being told that while I am trustworthy enough to take some responsibility, I cannot be trusted to have ultimate say in the dog's care or training. In the eyes of the staff, I am no different than the six-year-old who considers him/herself the owner of a pet, without realizing that his/her parents are ready to take the pet away if they see fit. This principal is applicable to so many other aspects of society; we are blind, so obviously we need supervision if we are to be in charge of anything. If we question this, we are often only patronized and told that we are wrong. After all, us poor blind folks need to be grateful that we are granted such luxuries at all.

I understand that there are blind folks on this list who have different feelings on this subject than I do, and I respect that. I believe that we should never lose sight of what we are granted nowsince the ADA. Until we reach full equality with our sighted counterparts, however, we cannot be content. To me, the problem of unconditional ownership represents the flawed views that sighted people often have of us and our constant struggle to change those views.

> On Aug 21, 2015, at 04:27, larry d keeler via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Cindy, I really think that is the whole point of ownership and all. That
> being to stop fear and intimidation from becoming an issue when dealing with
> the schools! Otherwise, I wouldn't much care. Its stories like hers that
> make me cringe! I also know many folks who live in fear that they may have
> the dog pulled at any time! 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Cindy Ray via
> nagdu
> Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2015 11:13 PM
> To: 'NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users'
> Cc: Cindy Ray
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] My Experience of Having My Dog Taken Away
> I would like to think that everyone would really consider the things that
> Sandra said in her post. I for one would only have immediate ownership, but
> this is not the issue. I just think that if you have to live in fear of the
> dog just being taken, and if in fact that does happen, it is just so worth
> it to own your dog, so Sandra, I'm glad you shared.
> Cindy Lou Ray
> cindyray at gmail.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Rachel Grider via
> nagdu
> Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2015 7:04 PM
> To: NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users
> <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
> Cc: Rachel Grider <rachel.grider at gmail.com>; <President at nagdu.org>
> <President at nagdu.org>
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] My Experience of Having My Dog Taken Away
> Hello, Sandra:
> I have never owned a guide dog, though I have considered getting one and
> often read posts from this list. 
> Thank you so much for sharing your story. It really upsets me that this
> happened to you, and I'm sure that similar things have happened to others.
> When reading some of the other posts about ownership, I naively assumed that
> the only way you could get your dog taken away was if you were mistreating
> it. This is obviously not the case, and I now realize the importance of
> getting my dog from a school that grants unconditional ownership, should I
> eventually decide to get one. 
> Best,
> Rachel   
> http//www.rachelgrider.com
>> On Aug 20, 2015, at 13:11, Tara Briggs via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> 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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