We had our first annual Camp Days at the Monkey Tail Ranch! This camp was absolutely no cost to our families who participated. We want to thank our wonderful volunteers who came to staff the camp with cooks, respite workers, horse handlers, and puppy leaders. We had a total of 936 volunteer hours.
We had an outdoor movie night, slept in tents, visited Gilroy Gardens. Parents had some much needed respite, drank mimosas, and had massages. . We also had a camp fire, s’mores, soccer games, horse rides, puppy visits, playing in the mud, and coloring in the quiet room. So, how did we get from training dogs, to families with children with special needs sleeping in tents on our back lawn?
In 2004 we started by working with service dog organizations as a consultant to fix service dogs behavioral problems that their trainers were having before the dogs were paired with their permanent handler.
Several years ago, a family came up for a playdate while we were training their service dog. Their son with autism asked if he could go for a ride on one of our very gentle horses. As the entire family and their dog got the horse ready to ride, got on the horse, and began walking around the property, I saw it. I saw what would be the future Monkey Tail Ranch. A way to incorporate the entire family to support the addition of the service dog.
A service dog is not a cure. A service dog is a lot of work for the entire family. These families are often over-taxed, and a service dog is additional work whose impact will be felt throughout the household. We feel that we have a responsibility to make sure we help with more than just providing a well trained service dog. How can we augment the benefits the service dog brings to the family? Getting to know these families on a deep personal level, and raising these puppies, we have become both the dog’s advocate and the family’s support team. We could not, in good conscience, give a family a service dog and leave with little more than follow up lessons.
We started the Monkey Tail Ranch to be able to continue the relationships with the family, to provide a location that is judgment free, and to be able to have a lifetime relationship with our families.
Our first camp was this vision in real life, real time. What a journey, we can’t wait to see where it takes us.