The Year in Review
It is so hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. 2016 has been a year of challenges for us, and with these challenges has come opportunities to stretch our wings and grow as we adapt to the changes going on around us. We take a moment her to review for you some of the highlights of the past year.
SD Training Program– in January we overhauled our training program to convert this from a high school to a community-based program. Though local teens continue to be welcome, no longer is inclusion limited to only those students on one high school campus. This change benefits not only teens across the Valley, but also permits individuals with disabilities to participate fully as students to train their own dog from start to finish. 2016 also marks the first time that we were able to start two new classes in the same year.
Certification Program – we have expanded our program to invite independent trainers to become a part of a network of programs to become FSDS certified programs. This is a lengthy process, and several programs are already at work to organize their standards to meet requirements. Our goal is to help network independent trainers who operate small businesses, and improve accessibility and quality of SD training in remote rural areas of the country.
Working Like a Dog Program – this is perhaps the most exciting initiative for us. This past year the Board has approved an initiative that will provide per diem work for SD teams, who would otherwise be disenfranchised. It is no secret that securing employment as a SD team is fraught with difficulties. Many of our team handlers who have been wounded in the line of duty have been placed on medical retirement, and suffer feelings of social isolation. Our new program will permit those who have been in training for at least one year, or graduated, and in good standing to apply for a position as Community Educators. They will then be available to attend meetings and events and help educate the public on SD issues. It will also be a goal of ours to increase outreach to military and first responders and those service agencies put in place to assist them, and educate them about the benefits of SDs.
Our growing family – this past year we were fortunate to attract several new members of the FSDS family. Dominique Sollazzo joined the FSDS family as of the first of the year. She first came to the FSDS in August of 2012 as a high school student, and raised a SD for a military veteran in need. The following year the FSDS sponsored her to attend the Emergency Animal Medical Technician class offered by the AZ Humane Society. Dominique now works as an intern instructor. Mr. Gary Noble joined the family in April. Prior to being with the FSDS, he was the Executive Director for an environmental non-profit based in Michigan. Gary is a seasoned grant writer and event planner and his services as the Event Planner / Fundraiser for the FSDS have been a real asset for us. Scott Sefranka joined the Board of Directors this past summer, and the benefits of his expertise were immediately felt by all. Scott is a military veteran and wounded police officer, and recently certified as a team with is own SD “Bigby”. They are graduates of the FSDS training program. Scott is involved with policy decisions and we are looking forward to a productive long-term relationship between he and the FSDS.
In the News – this past year FSDS was featured in stories by Phoenix Law Enforcement Association PLEA Oct_2016 as well U.S. World News. We appreciate the dedication of these professionals to provide education on service dog issues to our community and our nation. FSDS was selected by U. S. News from programs across the nation.
CB6 Class – all students have now successfully completed the first three rounds of testing, and starting with the new year will move into the final phase of their training. In this phase they are now learning specific tasks such as tugging open doors, alerting to PTSD triggers, scent work for medical alert dogs, summoning help in times of crisis and working with advanced distractions. The transformations we have witnessed not only for the dogs, but for the recipients / trainers has been nothing short of miraculous. Kudos to all for a job well done.
CB7 Class – our new class of students is hard at work mastering their beginner puppy tasks in preparation to take their AKC Puppy Star Test on Dec. 3rd. The dogs currently know commands like nose-targeting, sit, down, backing up, spinning left and right, and the heel position. They are all bonding well with their dogs and we are very encouraged by these early signs. We look forward to getting our new students together with our more established students in early Dec. for the annual holiday party.
Attention Evaluators / Have Your Training Program Certified
This past year, as noted above, we launched a new initiative that would offer each of you the opportunity to have your training program certified. This initiative is designed to network you and provide you with the infrastructure and support you need to grow and protect your business, while at the same time increasing the quality and quantity of legitimate SD training options to those in areas not served by other SD training program.
The real test of how well your policy and procedures are put together comes in witnessing how well they will hold up when put to the ultimate test. It is an unfortunate reality that trade secret theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in our nation, with employees / former employees (or volunteers) now recognized as the largest group of offenders. Fortunately, federal and state laws have recently been enacted to provide a viable option for businesses who are the victims of theft to pursue criminal charges. Theft of trade secrets is now a felony offense, and no longer regarded as solely a civil matter. This has opened an avenue for businesses with strong policies that specify how to secure their materials and have the means to collect and produce credible evidence of a crime to pursue criminal charges. It is important for each of you to differentiate between what sorts of information you may feel are necessary to collect, and what type of information will actually be requested by the police and County Attorney should the need arise.
This past year our policies were put to the test three times. In each instance, it was document (trade secret) theft that was at play. Each time, our policies and procedures were sufficient to address the situation. Each of you must realize that in this electronic (“cut and paste”) world in which we live anyone can navigate to your website and take a screen shot. They can then crop out your logo and use it. If you have a website, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media page, you are vulnerable to attack. Alternately volunteers, past clients or former employees can take your program materials and use them to open “their own” competing program. One example of a situation we encountered this past year was a former team handler who used our logo to declare herself as the “FSDS Training School” in her region, pasting our logo on a fee schedule she designed, producing her own badges using our logo, etc. Thanks to some astute readers who recognized the problem and brought this to our attention, she was caught and the authorities were able to address the situation.
For those trainers who sign on with us, you will be presented with a comprehensive set of policy and procedures that will increase your ability to protect your business. Gone are the days when you can simply hang a shingle and begin to provide services. Doing the “heavy lifting” work of establishing effective policy and procedures is essential to the survival of your business. We remind you all that realistically, it is not a question of “if” you will be faced with theft, but “when”. Learn more about how to take the first step to protect your business.
- Dec. 3 – Annual FSDS Holiday Party for staff and students
- Feb. 26, 2017 – Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club car Show to benefit the FSDS, details TBA
With Sincere Thanks
This month we wish to acknowledge and thank the following individuals for their generosity:
- Del E. Webb Foundation
- Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club
- The Camping Companies, Inc.
- Hannah L. Rhodes
- The Olivia Family Trust
Over the course of the last year we have been fortunate to have the continued involvement and repeat large donations from several wonderful businesses, and we would be remiss not to mention some of our long-term supporters here:
- Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
- Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club
- Casino Arizona
- CR Bard, Inc.
- Hill’s Pet Nutrition / Tim Ganahl
- Miracle Corps. / Christopher Barraclough
A very special and heartfelt thank you to the Phoenix Police Department / Dawnasie Martin for very generously permitting us use of classroom space at their Estrella Mountain Precinct. We are eternally grateful to them for their support of our training program, as well as our officers in need. Without this type of high level support and long-term commitment, our program would not be possible.
It is that time of year when we stuff the stockings for our furry friends. Here are some practical tips on do’s and don’ts for the season:
- replace any working equipment that is in poor repair or no longer properly fitted
- ensure that all toys are free from small removable parts and made for vigorous chewers
- provide only nutritious and healthy treats for your dogs
- sign up to receive pet food recall alerts
- provide stainless steel bowls for your dog
- supervise your dog around holiday decorations
- keep gift packages hidden until you are ready for your dog to open them
- supervise your dogs play at all times
- provide human food or treats to your dog
- offer your dog any toy that is small enough to fit through the center of a roll of toilet paper
- feed your dog from bowls decorated with lead-based paint
- leave packages or decorations where your dog can reach them and eat ribbons or bows, as these may cause intestinal obstruction
- leave garbage cans that contain food remains uncovered
- leave candy or nut dishes on low lying tables
Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
We hope that you enjoy these photos. Some were taken in class, while others were thoughtfully submitted by our students and were taken outside of the classroom. Who can resist these sweet moments and adorable little puppy faces!