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Keeping Our Joseph Safe - A Testimonial by Beth Swanson and Tracy Rains (2008)

Joseph is a wonderful, beautiful, child. When he was in his second year, we began to realize that he was not developing like other 1+-year-olds.

An appointment with a developmental pediatrician led to a diagnosis of Peri-sylvian Syndrome. It’s a rare syndrome that matched up with his symptoms of drooling, lack of speech, motor delays, and visual and hearing processing problems.

Joseph has no fear. He does not have any instinct for danger. He simply does what he sets his mind to do, whether that be climbing 15 feet up into a tree, approaching or picking up a snarling animal, or running into the street. Joseph is so quick and quiet, that he does not engage in the typical pre-speech babbling. He is very difficult to keep track of and must be visually watched over.

Safety is a huge issue. Based on Joseph’s needs Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs will train a dog that will alert an adult by barking, that Joseph is not where he is supposed to be. The dog will be trained to stay with Joseph at all times. Because Joseph is so quiet, it is possible for him to disappear without an adult’s or the dog’s knowledge. Brigadoon Service Dogs will train a dog to find him. Once the dog has found him, it will alert an adult to his location by barking.

Everyone’s greatest desire is that Joseph stays safe. Brigadoon will train a dog that will become Joseph's constant companion, and give the family security and peace of mind. Wagging tails, happy people, new friends to make, and that feeling inside me telling me I have done a wonderful thing…

The hours go by like minutes, there’s so much to do: Everything from training to walking to washing the dogs (I get wet every time) to office work and mingling with people. I always feel good about helping out because I know that everything the other volunteers and I do helps, but I always feel like Brigadoon does more for me than I do for them!

When I’m at Brigadoon, I feel so busy with what I’m doing...and carefree because I’m doing something I love—with some of the nicest people I have ever met. I make new friends every time I volunteer! The hardest decision I have to make when I’m there is which dog to walk first! Brigadoon is my escape from the everyday world.

If you ask any volunteer at Brigadoon why they decided to volunteer, one of their first answers would be that they love animals. That may sound like a run-of-the-mill answer, but you can really tell by the look in their eyes and how seriously committed they are to work with the dogs, that their love of animals runs much deeper.

You can tell you’ve run across a Brigadoon volunteer when you ask them what they did today and they ask you how much time you have. You’ll also know because their hands smell like hot dogs and dog food and their clothes are wet from bathing dogs. You know a Brigadoon volunteer by the language they use with animals and the affection they give. Being a Brigadoon volunteer is not just a job— it’s a part of my life.

One of the most rewarding parts of working with the dogs and people at Brigadoon is witnessing the success stories. What I will never tire of is seeing the smile on the client's face when their dog looks up adoringly at them offering unconditional love, as well as the satisfaction in the dogs’ expression knowing he has made a difference is his person’s life.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to all of this. When you have spent hundreds of hours raising, caring, and training a dog for someone and you are weeks away from graduation and the dog just doesn't come through. You have the tough decision of releasing them from the program and starting over with another dog. Thank goodness this does not occur very often so we get to enjoy our success stories.

Another fun aspect is to match the right dog to the right human partner. Sometimes months will go by for a dog in training just waiting for his person to come in. Then it happens—in walks just that special one and the magic begins.

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