Operation Delta Dog
Class: 2013 Winter Accelerator
Operation Delta Dog is a nonprofit organization with a mission to rescue shelter dogs and train them to work as service dogs for U.S. military veterans who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The dogs get the homes they need, and the veterans get the help they deserve!
Monday, December 17, 2012
Great news! Operation Canine, Inc. now officially exists!
If you read yesterday’s post, you know that I was (ahem) a bit upset with the online filing system at the Secretary of State’s office. But when I called today I was pleasantly surprised to talk to an extremely helpful person who figured out the problem and helped me solve it. A few minutes later, I completed the filing and—miracle of miracles—it actually went through! Now I just have to wait for approval. I requested an official start date of January 1, 2013, so I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.
I also want to take this opportunity to post a note of thanks to the three people who have volunteered to serve on the Board of Directors: Susan Arapoff, Karen Roehr, and Stephen Irish. Without them, I could not have filed and gotten this far. I hope to soon have more board members to join them. I’m really hoping to find someone involved with veteran’s affairs, an attorney, a CPA, and an animal behaviorist and/or veterinarian, among others. If you know of anyone who might be interested in joining the team, please send me a message!
December 16, 2012
Feeling extremely frustrated today… I set aside time over the weekend to file articles of incorporation (online) with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office. But in the end, I wasn’t able to accomplish anything because I kept receiving error messages from the system. It indicated that I was missing information that I had already entered, and every time I tried to solve the problem I “timed out” in the system and had to start all over again. (And the “help” button was no help at all.) After running head-first into a brick wall for hours, I finally had to give up.
This isn't even the first time I've tried to accomplish this (seemingly simple) step. Being that today is Sunday, I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to try to call the Secretary of State’s office. But something tells me that calling that office will just be another exercise in frustration…
December 14, 2012
I just had a fascinating discussion with Terri Bright, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst with the MSPCA in Boston. We began by talking about the terms “shelter” and “shelter dogs”… Terri clarified that those are catch-alls used to describe the many different types of facilities that homeless animals may find themselves in, and she added that not all of them would be most beneficial to my purposes at Operation Canine.
First there are town pounds, which have extremely high euthanasia rates and very low adoption rates. Then there are organizations like Pilot, which sometimes remove adoptable dogs from the pounds and foster them or bring them to other shelter situations. Massachusetts also has many “limited admission” shelters, which accept only animals that are highly adoptable, and a few “open admission” shelters, which will accept any animal, regardless of size, behavior, or circumstance. (I was surprised to learn that the MSPCA operates some of the only “open admission” shelters in the state.) Lastly, we have breed-rescue organizations, which typically offer foster homes to homeless purebred animals.
Terri suggested that I investigate the options carefully and perhaps settle on one or two particular shelters or organizations to work with exclusively, especially at the beginning. This will help me develop strong relationships and also concentrate my resources more effectively. She also recommended that I develop an “operational definition” of what behaviors I need these dogs to perform. The behaviors should be specific, measurable, and definable: For example, what does this dog’s day look like? What services will he/she perform in a 24-hour period? This will help me communicate more effectively with trainer candidates.
Terri also corrected one of my assumptions about temperament testing: I had assumed that my trainer would be able to enter the shelters and test potential dogs as he/she saw fit. But Terri mentioned that at her facility, she actually does not permit outsiders to temperament test the animals. Instead, potential adopters describe what they need in a dog, and MSPCA staffers find the most appropriate fit. I’ll have to learn more about the procedures at other facilities to find the best way to proceed with that part of Operation Canine’s training process.
And finally, when I expressed my sense of being overwhelmed, Terri told me about a saying she had learned from a Quaker friend: “We will proceed as the way opens.” So I guess I’ll just keep plugging along and watch for openings as they appear. :-)
December 12, 2012
CNN just announced its 2012 Heroes Awards, and one of the winners was a woman who trains rescued shelter dogs to work as service dogs to help soldiers with PTSD! Mary Cortani, herself a veteran, is also a dog trainer. She started Operation Freedom Paws in 2010 and now boasts a 10,000-square-foot training facility in Gilroy, California. She is a real inspiration to me and I hope I am able to chat with her sometime soon. I’m thinking I’d be better off waiting until January or February, when the hubbub from her award has died down and she might have some time to talk.
Here’s a short excerpt from the CNN coverage:
“'When a veteran trains their own service dog, there are immediate benefits right off the bat,’ [Mary] said. ‘They have a mission and a purpose again. It gives them something to focus on and to complete. It gives them a sense of security and safety. ... They know they're not alone. They've always got their buddy at the end of the leash.’
There are many groups across the country that provide veterans with service dogs, but the methods in which they work vary. Typically, organizations breed, raise and train dogs before pairing them with veterans, a process that can take months or years. Some, like Cortani's group, use a train-the-trainer approach.”
Since this is also the approach I hope to use, I was excited to read about her success. Although I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled to find that our organizations have such similar names… An unfortunate coincidence, I’m afraid!
Click here to learn more about the CNN Heroes Awards:
Click here to learn more about Mary and Operation Freedom Paws:
December 10, 2012
I had a wonderful meeting this morning with my lead mentor, Marty Kane. Marty was kind enough to drive up from Boston and discuss my immediate and longer-term goals for Operation Canine. He had lots of great advice and has gotten me started on a path toward accomplishing big things by the end of February. As he mentioned, my goals are “ambitious,” but I think they’re doable with his help and the help of others in the Accelerator program. I’m so glad we were matched together, and I look forward to working with Marty for the next few months.
In other big news, Operation Canine now has a Facebook page! I’m still trying to work out some kinks… For example, does anyone know how I might zoom in on the profile picture? I used the logo as the profile picture, but it’s way too small. And when I try to make it bigger, the top and bottom of the logo get cut off. In any case, the page is up and running and I already have 25 or so “likes.” Please check it out when you get a chance! http://www.facebook.com/#!/OperationCanine?fref=ts
A Boston Globe reporter and photographer will be here tomorrow morning to talk about Operation Canine, so my biggest concern tonight is getting my house presentable enough for company and CAMERAS! Yikes. Here’s hoping they don’t mind tripping over Legos and Barbies at every turn...