Bubba Gump is my
life assistance dog. She’s an (almost) seventeen-month-old labradoodle that we bought as an eight-week old puppy. We bought her with the hope of training her to become an assistance dog. For the first six months of her life, she was mostly just puppied. Babied, cuddled, made a fuss of. She did come everywhere with me though. Wherever I was, she wasn’t far behind. She became my constant sidekick and companion. Between six months and a year, she mastered the basics of walking properly to heel, her recall, sitting and laying down on command, her stay command and all the other basic requirements. It was just before she hit the 12-month mark that I came across Canine Generated Independence (CGI, for short).
CGI have changed my life. They are a not for profit organisation. CGI are an unincorporated association of assistance dog owners and handlers, supporting each other to owner train and work their assistance dogs. We’re assigned a trainer (mine is amazing, but I’m sure they all are) and they go through your weekly logs each week and if there’s anything you’re struggling with then they support you through it and help with any training problems you may be having. Not every dog is cut out to be an Assistance Dog. The dogs have to be of the right temperament and they need to be trained to a high standard.
I frequently get asked all sorts of questions about Bubba Gump.
Here are the most frequently asked questions;
? What breed of dog is best and do you need to have had the dog from a puppy?
➷ There is no “best” breed for an assistance dog. It depends on what tasks you need the dog to perform, personal preference and the temperament of the puppy. I chose a labradoodle because they are said to not moult as much (mine moults plenty…). Many people have rescue dogs that they’ve trained to be their assistance dog. Again, it’s horses for courses. [I wonder if I could have an assistance horse…].
? Can anyone have an assistance dog?
➷ No. Anyone with an assistance dog must have a disability that is mitigated by the use of their assistance dog. This is the law and non-negotiable. Evidence is required by all members (of CGI) to prove that they have a disability. This is to ensure CGI don’t have fake assistance dogs wearing their logo.
? Can you take your dog into supermarkets/doctors’ surgeries/restaurants with you?
➷ Yes. Anywhere I go, she goes. This includes all the places you can think of. There are some exceptions, for example, public swimming pools or places where it’s possible other animals could be caused distress by the presence of your dog (for example, zoos). Until she’s taken her public access, which can’t be taken until a dog is at least 18 months of age, it’s not a requirement to allow access and you should ask the proprietor before assuming access. Assistance dog owners are protected under the Equality Act 2010. If you’re refused access because of your dog, it’s breaking the law. An assistance dog is an aid and if you refuse them access then it’s not much different to refusing a person access because they have a walking stick with them.
? Why do you need a dog?
➷ This is a really awkward one. I find it really uncomfortable when people ask me why I need an assistance dog. People’s illnesses are often something they like to keep private. I don’t feel like I want to tell complete strangers something that’s so personal. I have agoraphobia, GAD, panic attacks, disassociation and depersonalisation. People think you have to have a physical disability to have an assistance dog. This isn’t the case, thank goodness!
? What does your dog do for you?
➷ Ah, this one is similar to asking what your dog is for. Bubba Gump performs deep pressure therapy, she breaks my bouts of disassociation, grounds me when I’m panicking and gets someone when I need them. If I didn’t have Bubba Gump, my World would be very, very small. I would probably barely leave the house. CGI and Gump have given me back my life and motivation to move forward.
If you read this and, like me, think that Canine Generated Independence are the best thing ever, you can get involved and support them here.
So many people think that Assistance Dogs UK are the ONLY people you can have an assistance dog with. ADUK are actually just a voluntary coalition of the seven most well known charities. These charities have no more authority or rights than any other qualified assistance dog.
**Disclaimer. Any opinions in this blog are mine and mine alone and not backed by CGI or anyone else. I’m just sharing my opinion and my knowledge of assistance dogs.