Happy 7th Birthday FSDS!
Just 7 short years ago, FSDS co-founders signed and submitted paper to the State Corporation Commission, and the FSDS was born. We started with no money, with the founders reaching into their own pockets to cover initial expenses. Today, the FSDS has a small but elite staff of qualified teachers and administrators, and a hands-on Board of Directors with a lifetime of experience and a desire to share. We currently operate three programs: Youth-based service dog training, Outreach Certification and Canine Safety. As we begin 2015, there are some exciting changes on the horizon that will strengthen our current programs. The most recent efforts to improve services have occurred in our youth-based training and Outreach Certification Programs.
In 2009 the FSDS began our first high school class. Thanks to a cooperative relationship with our wonderful friends at the Arizona Humane Society we were able to rescue shelter dogs and train them to become service dogs. While this has been a rewarding experience, we were unable to verify the genetic backgrounds of the dogs, and there have been dogs who had to be released from the program due to the development of medical problems. This past Fall, after an exhaustive search, the FSDS hand-picked a select group of breeders who bred along the same bloodline for many generations, screening out genetic problems. Dogs selected now from our program have a greater assurance of optimal health, and are also bred for temperament. In addition to the selection of our dogs, we will be launching a new educational initiative with community partners this summer…more on that later.
In the Fall of 2008 the FSDS made a bold move to provide opportunities for privately trained teams to achieve legitimate certification. Starting with a small handful of select trainers, this program has continued to gain popularity. Today, we have a network of 58 Evaluators across the United States, and a total of 83 certified teams. The program began with the education for teams provided via the Certified Service Dog Team Manual and monthly newsletters. Over the years, we have listened carefully to the questions from our teams. It has become very evident that efforts needed to be made to standardize the education we provide to our outreach teams to match that provided to the teams who receive dogs trained in our youth-based program.
Last summer we were fortunate to receive a generous grant from C.R. Bard to allow us to improve our system of education. The FSDS has been hard at work to modernize and revitalize our online education. This summer, we will launch our new and greatly improved online education program. For the first time, all outreach teams will be required to complete the identical online education package that is required of all of our recipients. Teams who are certifying for the first time will be required to complete the training prior to being granted a test ticket. Those teams who are re-certifying will be required to complete this training. Once this has been completed, it will not have to be repeated for subsequent re-certification tests. This class will be the equivalent of a 3 credit college class. It is our firm belief that failure to properly address the educational needs and standardize requirements will dilute the value of certification and diminish public confidence in our teams. Many private trainers work hard behind the scenes to ensure that the dogs are properly trained. Certification is not just about training for the dog though, and it is our job to ensure that handlers are receiving proper training.
This new education will take effect summer of 2015. We project the start date to be July 1st. There will be a cost associated with this, and we are making every effort to hold down the cost. The projected cost of this comprehensive educational course will be $224, the minimum required for the program to sustain itself. This includes the salary for a qualified teacher. Discussion is underway regarding scholarship assistance for those unable to afford the full amount, and we will provide updates when they are available.
Estrella Mountain Campus– Our teams are hard at work as students work with their puppies to master basic obedience commands. In addition to working on basic commands, our dogs are also taught from the start to stop at curbs, doorways and when the ground surface changes (ie: pavement to gravel). This past month we also welcomed one final dog into the program, our only female- Katie. Later this month our teams will participate in an event in Youngtown where they will provide service dog education to the community, as well as hands on CPR and first aid demonstrations.
Paradise Valley Campus– This month the recipients began their classroom training. Final matches are being made, and recipients are being assigned to their student trainers, who will mentor them throughout the rest of their training. We are SO very proud of our students, who have gone above and beyond to welcome the recipients and put them at ease. This type of mentoring is a key part of our program, as students step up and assume increasing leadership roles in the program. These teams will be attending several events, as well as field trips so that our recipients will receive adequate public access training. Included in this class of recipients are several military veterans, and a first responder and family. The FSDS continues to give preference to wounded military veterans, first responders and their families. See last three photos in photo gallery below for some of our students and recipients together.
We remind our readers to exercise caution when selecting dog treats. A label that indicates “Made in the U.S.A.” simply means that the product was assembled in the U.S.A., but in reality the ingredients may come from outside countries. We suggest that our readers sign up to receive pet food alerts via email when recalls occur. Continue to be aware that jerky treats have been implicated in cases of kidney failure. A recent FDA study also reveals that can and raw foods are at a higher risk of contamination with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, which cause food poisoning.
Our Sincere Appreciation To
Bill and Lillian Riley for their generous donation of our newest dog. Katie was obtained from a preferred breeder, from the same bloodline as four of our newest pup. In fact, Katie is their Aunt! After illness left them unable to care for Katie, Bill and Lillian made a difficult but loving decision to donate Katie to the training program so that another person in the community will benefit. Our best wishes for this wonderful couple for a recovery, and improved health in 2015.
Our congratulations to Dr. Jon Corey PhD and his new bride Kim, on their recent marriage. Jon has served on the Board of Directors for the past several years and has become a very beloved figure around the FSDS. We wish them a long and happy life together.
Graduation 2015- Sponsor a Table
Mark the date on your calendars…Saturday, May 16th is our annual graduation. Each year, we seek sponsors to help us provide tickets to our deserving recipients and students. The vast majority of our recipients are wounded military veterans and first responders, and these individuals have risked their lives for the sake of all of us. Many of our students are under-served, and despite limited financial means they and their families have provided food and other needed items for these dogs throughout the training process, so that someone else may benefit. Your tax deductible contribution of $500 will sponsor a table of 10. Please help us to provide tickets in recognition of those who have risked their lives to serve our country and community, as well as those exceptional students who have devoted the past two years of their lives to help change the lives of others.
Event Planner Needed
We are seeking the volunteer services of an experienced event planner to work with us. If you are an experienced planner with a desire to give back to local heroes we would love to hear from you. Contact us to learn more.
The pups try on their new booties and vests this past week, and were happy to pose for the camera.