Wondering what is going on with the Animals for Autism/Pepsi Refresh mess? The answer is nothing. Animals for Autism has pulled their facebook page (their website was already pulled down). Other than a mass email sent to some of the families weeks ago with no answers to anything, asking us to REQUEST our dogs if we still want them, no further contact has been made. According to the last we heard from Global Giving and from Ms. Kaydus, dogs will be ready for “delivery” starting this spring. I am not sure what the term “delivery” is supposed to mean. I have an image in my head of somebody driving by the homes of the children and pushing a dog out as the driver continues on. I am also unclear as to what kinds of dogs will indeed be available since they have not discussed training details with any of the families. Unless there is some mind reading powers I am unaware of, it seems impossible to train for a child’s specific needs without ever talking to the families about what those needs are.
It is now the middle of February. Flower bulbs are coming up in my garden as even the earth makes preparations for the coming of spring, but preparations for service dogs remains unknown. Pepsi and Global Giving are sitting back hoping everyone just forgets about it. Other than my son (through the generosity of 4 Paws for Ability), it looks as though the children are going to be without the service dogs their families tried so hard to provide them with. Pepsi’s funding of the facility continues despite the fact that the families have been forgotten.
It seems as though the bad guys may indeed have won this particular battle. The ugly fact is we live in a fallen world, and sometimes bad things just happen to good people. It is not fair, but it is life. Despite that, I serve a God who remains in control and He has not forgotten these children. Perhaps things have not turned out the way we all would have liked, but the sheer fact that all of the families involved have been made aware before actually taking an untrained dog into their homes is indeed a sign of God’s protection.
A child with autism is already at a heightened risk for things like dog bites (Siberian Huskies rank #4 as the breed most likely to bite) because of their unpredictable sounds and movements that could easily spook a dog that was not properly bred and trained to work with such a child. Our children could have actually been placed in danger from taking one of these dogs. One of the things most of the families were counting on in a service dog was for the child to be able to be tethered to the dog when out in public, so as to help prevent the child from wandering off, but still give them a bit more independence by allowing them to walk with the dog and adult team rather than ride in a special needs stroller. Can you just imagine an untrained dog out in public tethered to a child and seeing something as simple as a cat that it would like to chase? The results could have been disasterous. What about a child having a meltdown, screaming, kicking, hitting their head on the floor because the world has become too stressful and a dog sits there beside them… an untrained dog that has not been properly breed or even socialized…… As terrible as all this has been, it could have been much worse.
So what now? Some of the families have been burned so badly in this that they have decided they will no longer pursue a service dog at all, others are making preparations now to find another organization and sit on a waiting list for years. Some are making plans to raise needed funds, a difficult task for families that had already asked their communities to support them when they were raising funds for a service dog from Animals for Autism or for families who were publicly portrayed as receiving a free service dog already. Almost a full year has been wasted for some of these families. A year that could have been spent obtaining a real service dog.
Why we are we all so upset with Pepsi and Global Giving? Because they changed what the funding was to be used for and when we brought our concerns to them, they assured us everything was fine. They told some of us we simply had a personal problem. I myself was actually told by a Pepsi representative that they were, and I quote, “honored to work with her.” They told us to just sit and wait…. And be quiet. When the truth came to light, they covered things up rather than admitting a mistake. They are large organizations. They are hard to fight. They have millions of dollars at their disposal. We are just a handful of special needs families. The odds are on their side, but sometimes standing up for what is right is not about winning or losing…. It is about what is right.
My family is boycotting Pepsi. I ask for the rest of you to join us in this boycott . Until Pepsi pulls their funding from this “project” and stands for what is right, Pepsi will not enter my home. I have seen in the news other projects where they retrieved their funds, so they can do it in this case as well.
I am just one, but this one can affect another one who affects another one, and together we CAN all demand better for the families in this mess. I was just one when I voted for Lea Kaydus to get a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Program. She needed my help then, and I made a difference (an action I regret in that case). Hopefully this time I can make a difference for something good. Perhaps it will not matter to Pepsi at all, but at the very least, I will take a stand for what is right. I will be saying to my son and the other children involved…. You matter to me. After all, the children are what this was all supposed to be about.