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Review for North Star Foundation, Storrs, CT, USA

Rating: 1 stars  

We originally posted a positive review of NorthStar within hours of receiving our puppy. Since then we have been consistently disappointed by NorthStar and Patty Dobbs-Gross. Let’s start at the beginning: after some emails and phone calls between our family and Patty, she offered us a dog for which “the adoption had just fallen through.” When we visited NorthStar in Storrs, CT, we were appalled by the conditions: the house was filthy, the kitchen where we first met the dog was not fit for human use, and a litter of puppies was penned into a makeshift plywood enclosure in the garage. We understood from Patty that her autism dogs were part of a special program intended to bring out “forgiveness,” which was managed reputable breeders. On the second visit, we left with the puppy, a used cage, some paperwork, and some brochures to share with other ASD families. We paid $5,000 for the dog over two installments—at first we were told the dog, vet care and training cost $10,000 and that we could get her help raising the other $5,000 from family and friends online, but somehow we got the bargain price of $5,000 for this dog that magically was available when we called.

As we settled into life with our autistic seven-year old and a new puppy, working with Patty became frustrating in the extreme. It took multiple calls, voicemails and emails to get her response to simple questions, or movement on promised training support. The dog’s paperwork consisted of a blurry fax of a litter report dated 4/20/2011 with some vaccine stickers taped to it. It was impossible to tell if this was in fact a report for our dog, or for someone else’s entirely. The only place our dog’s name appeared was on the fax coversheet, and even then her name was communicated as something different. The technician at our vet said she had never seen such shoddy paperwork, and as a result we had to repeat the full round of shots supposedly done by NorthStar. To top it all off, the NorthStar credit card that was supposedly on file with our local vet never materialized, and each time we went for checkups or shots or the very expensive spaying procedure, we were literally left with the bill. NorthStar’s lack of attention and follow-through cost us thousands more on top of the initial $5,000 for the dog. In short, our carefully bred super autism dog was actually of unknown pedigree with no useable paperwork or records and a non-responsive partner in the venture. This was not helping our autistic son, but instead causing us to divert our attention away from him to deal with Patty.

A few more annoyances and inconveniences: the first in-home trainer provided by Patty walked off the job with no warning after less than a month’s total training time. We had to pester Patty for weeks to get our dog signed up for good puppy classes, where we met another NorthStar family that had similar complaints. Patty at one point let slip that she bred the puppies herself, presumably in her garage. We repeatedly asked for breeder paperwork and have never received any. The last straw was when our dog was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at six months old. She will require a special diet, medication and more frequent vet visits for the rest of her life, and even more care when her hips start going for good.

Add the financial and time losses to the fact that the dog is supposed to help a child with autism. If you’re reading this, you probably have a child with ASD, and are familiar with the research about the positive effects of dogs on autistic kids. Take it from a family that has suffered through months of aggravation, half-truths and broken promises at NorthStar’s hands: go to a reputable breeder and get a good dog. Get to know the puppy lemon laws in your state, and if they apply to breeders (CT’s apply only to pet stores). In our opinion, NorthStar is fly-by-night at best, and outright fraudulent at worst. Patty Dobbs-Gross was paid $5,000 for a dog any reputable breeder wouldn’t sell for $500, and we got none of the support or training we agreed to in her contract. That contract also clearly states that no refunds will be provided if the relationship between the family and NorthStar ends prematurely. Caveat emptor!

Let this bad experience serve as a warning to anyone who flirts with this organization. Run as fast as you can from NorthStar and don’t look back.

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Role:  Client Served

Christina, I have already corrected your many lies and misperceptions that you posted on Yelp, a site that took down your post as it was full of inaccuracies, but I will leave this post up here on my own site to serve as a document that is posted and responded to for the last time,for I just won't let you take up any more of my time with your personal vendetta... But first, here's something you got right: my kitchen was probably dirty the day you came to frequently is, at least according to the standards in my own Connecticut neighborhood and probably in your own Massachusetts is never fun to be judged, naturally, but I want you to know that I could have a cleaner house if I didn't work seven days a week (unpaid) on developing this nonprofit concept for families of children with autism. And I want you to know that if I could have afforded a housekeeper the day you visited I would have done so in order to have you be more comfortable in my home the day I invited you there to see if an assistance dog might help you son Matthew with his autism. And you weren't lying, but ignorant, about the fact that I breed most of the North Star dogs we place. I didn't "let that slip" but brag about this as our breeding program is actually a huge strength for us at North Star, and I'm sorry I somehow failed to communicate this to you: Ruby's breeding is stellar, and she actually doesn't have hip dysplasia; for anyone reading your post and this reply, this is the "missing link" of information that will explain why you are so scathing in your review: you believe Ruby has hip dysplasia based on a Penn Hip you gave her at six months of age; I asked (and paid for) a second opinion, to have her given an OFA at Tufts when she was a year old and told you that I would have been prepared to pay for surgery had she been diagnosed as dysplastic there at Tufts, but as you well know, this isn't what happened...the vet at Tufts, Dr. Brenda Salinardi, said: "Ruby likely had some joint laxity which caused the clinical signs seen six months ago, but with age the join capsule tightens, which is likely responsible for much of the improvement noted." You didn't want to hear this, and began to slander me and North Star on the internet immediately after this report was issued, with information that you know to be lies. Your trainer left due to a death in her family, and I think you are being pretty rotten to leave this fact out, along with the fact that I got you a replacement trainer of very high quality within a month of your old trainer having to leave, and I prepaid her for your lessons; you were the ones to drag your feet here, and then finally rejected this paid for training without even meeting the trainer. Yet you complain you got "none of the support or training" agreed to in the contract? You know that is a lie, Christina, and I'm not really sure how you sleep at night with your penchant for telling lies in order to cast ugly stones when you are actually angry about something else (ie, Ruby's nonexistent hip dysplasia). You also withhold important truths here in addition to telling lies, such as the fact that Ruby has a fantastic disposition and is working well with your son, fact, here's what you wrote to me last summer when your son Matthew responded so well to her, and vice versa: "Here's another copy of the picture... unbelievable, eh? Was this the same kid who couldn't sit still at your dining room table? We are speechless!!!!!! You can view these photos in a full-screen screen slideshow and download full-resolution copies for free. Enjoy!" The second outright lie you tell is that I "sell" North Star dogs for $5,000...if this was so, Christina, that why on earth would I have been paying Ruby's vet and training bills this past year? The $5,000 you were asked to raise, half the true cost of the work we do on North Star placements, is both for training/insurance/transportation/taxes/equipment/food/toys & purchase price of the dog ($1,500, a rock bottom price for this clean of a pedigree and commitment to early work with the can see me working with Ruby and her siblings on this You-Tube page in my "dirty" kitchen: to prove the work I did with Ruby and her siblings). You call us a "fly by night" organization, but what does this say about your perceptions when I tell you we've been working to develop this nonprofit service for 15 years now and have over 150 successful placement in progress around the world to show for it?Does this sound like we're "flying by night"? In closing, I am going to let your meanspirited post serve as my reminder that you just can't please them all... Regards, Patty Dobbs Gross Executive Director North Star Foundation