| Nov 2, 2019
One Particular Veteran Saved and Dog Rescued
September 21st marked Operation Freedom Paws' 8th year as a non-profit. We have accepted a total of 408 clients since 2010. US Army veteran Ashley was matched with rescued black lab mix April in May of 2018. April was rescued from a shelter in Clovis, CA that knows exactly what we want for our service dogs. They contact us when they have a likely candidate, and April is a perfect fit for Ashley and her family.
Despite having to drive over two hours each way from attend training while juggling VA appointments and family, Ashley was ready to take her 7-hour public access test in May of this year. Ashley's goal from the day she returned from the war was to reconnect with her young son, which was extremely difficult as she tried to cope with PTS and other challenging medical issues. But this summer she has been able to coach his soccer team to a winning record---they're in second place going into the regional tournaments!
Ashley says her success is a direct result of OFP's training, which was possible because of donations like yours. OFP provides every service dog team with veterinary care, dog food, equipment and training at no charge. We provide access to a licensed therapist at every training session, and even help with the cost of getting clients to and from training when necessary. OFP's program becomes a client's primary mission until s/he is able to continue progressing and healing independently.
Ashley says improvement in her verbal communication has been one of the key benefits of OFP's training. We begin by encouraging clients to talk to their dogs in three different voices: command, praise and correction. The command voice is difficult for many because they don't want to sound like they're yelling at the dogs, but it's important for the handler to clearly communicate what is expected of the animal without sounding angry. Most clients have not created the habit of praising their dogs when they do something right. We constantly remind them that praise is more important than treats----in fact, it will eventually replace treats. Corrections must be given at the right time, using the right words and tone, and the handler has to immediately return to the command voice after a correction. A client who holds on to anger or frustration will repel the dog, so this is a critical part of their communication skills. Ashley has told us that this training has carried over to other areas of her life, so it is easier for her to talk to her doctors and therapists. This means she is getting better treatment from her medical team. That habit of giving praise carries over to family, too, creating positive and closer relationships with loved ones.
THANK YOU for supporting Ashley and April, and all of our clients and their dogs!