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!
February 18, 2013
Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions! The testing was all going so well, and then… A speed bump.
My two main assumptions were: (1) At least some local animal-welfare organizations would be willing to work with me, and (2) At least some local veterans’ organizations would be willing to work with me. Testing those two assumptions in the past few months has had wonderful results. I now have two animal shelters and one breed-rescue organization on board (with many more in the works), and also five different veterans’ counselors/social workers/psychologists who are excited about the program and eager to recommend veterans who can participate. The biggest of these is the VA Hospital in Bedford, which is so huge it resembles a college campus. The case worker I spoke with there has more than 9,000 veterans in her care.
So that was all great. Then I learned that one of my other assumptions was dead wrong. I had estimated the salary of the dog trainer based on research of nationwide averages, which ranged from about $15-$18 per hour. I bumped that up to $25 an hour, taking into consideration the higher salaries of the Northeast, and asked a few people if that sounded about right. I got the thumbs-up and proceeded from there to make all of my cost estimates based on that amount.
Then I had an in-depth meeting with some experienced dog trainers (some of whom have worked with service dogs). They told me they loved every aspect of my proposal except one: the salary. Turns out, I wasn’t even in the ballpark. They all told me I should budget for at least $60 an hour, if not more, for a quality trainer. Needless to say, this threw my entire budget into a tailspin! I’ve had to revamp everything and unfortunately my costs are now quite a bit more than I had planned for.
I’m trying to look on the bright side and realize that it’s better to learn this now than later… At least now I can plan for it, instead of being blindsided down the road. Either way, it won’t put a damper on Operation Canine’s plans. If we have to raise even more money to make this happen, then that’s what we’ll do.