Happy New Year to All!

Looking Ahead to 2020

This month starts a new year, and with that we look ahead to our plans for 2020.  Last year was a year of quietly building behind the scenes.  The opening of our new facility, and the credentialing of our program by the state and acceptance by the VA for veterans to receive their GI Bill BenefitsTM  has paved the way for new growth that will enable us to better serve our community.

Our two main focus areas for 2020 will be to expand our training program and build capacity.  To this end, we will need to hire a military veteran as our first apprentice, start at least 4 additional classes and also hire a full time Executive Director.  The first of these 4 classes will start the first Saturday in January.

Dog Paddling Behind the Scenes

This past year was one of mixed visibility.  In order to move forward and gain credentialing we needed to secure a dedicated facility space, and were fortunate to locate an ideal space inside of the Metro Center Mall.  This increased our visibility. The final push for credentialing, however, was accomplished quietly behind the scenes.  During 2019 we devoted our attention to becoming the first and only credentialed SD training program in AZ.  This meant conforming to requirements set forth by the state and dealing with a voluminous amount of paperwork.  This aspect of operations was invisible to the community, but essential to success.

Credentialing is not mandatory

Neither is graduating from high school.  Most people do make a decision to graduate though as it not only bolsters their chance of success as individuals, but a better educated population strengthens us as a community.   Likewise, a requirement for credentialing of working professionals provides a greater degree of assurance of quality of services.  This too strengthens the community.

Paving the way

The FSDS decision to pursue credentialing has required us not just to take a road less traveled, but in fact to plow and pave a brand new road.  Gaining credentialing is not analogous to flipping a switch.  In this case, it has been more a case of turning a complex system of dials and knobs.  We first had to convince those around us that SD training was a serious matter and worthy of attention.  It became painfully evident early on that given the lack of regulation and the myriad problems within this industry, this was not a matter that other agencies considered worthy of serious consideration. It was not uncommon for us to receive comments such as “We are sure you have a nice little program, but this is not something we are interested in”.  Nonetheless, we persisted.  Our willingness to do so will make it easier for those who follow.

With each step we have taken, we have ensured that we set our program up for success at the next level.   At each step we have met any requirements for beta testing and piloting, as well as development and validation of all written and skill assessments.  As we have grown, we have had to:

  • Ensure a solid infrastructure
  • Outline all standards and create a coherent curriculum map that would meet all requirements moving forward
  • Align our standards for career training with youths with the State Dept. of Education standards under career and technical education (CTE)
  • Pilot the youth program and grow this aspect
  • Separate didactic from hands on training – this was a massive project 3 years in the making
  • Develop a comprehensive professional development program that conforms to standards accepted in the greater professional education community
  • Beta test our new system and validate all test questions
  • Gain recognition by a national oversight body for credentialing of dog trainers (note that credentialing at this time remains voluntary, not mandatory)
  • Petition for and gain acceptance onto the state Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL)
  • Petition for and gain acceptance as a recognized State Master SD Trainer Apprenticeship Program
  • Petition for and gain acceptance by the Veterans Administration to allow veterans hired as an apprentice to access their GI BillTM benefits.

Slow but Steady

The above has taken us years to accomplish and was a massive undertaking.  For this reason, the growth that is visible to the community has been slow.  As we enter 2020, we have now arrived at the point where we believe that the quality control issues have all been addressed, and that our program is built on a rock solid foundation and ready for expansion.  The FSDS is run by a small group of upper level professionals and anything short of this to our way of thinking was regarded by us as a “house of cards”.  We would not put our collective names and credentials on any program until we were satisfied that it was of the highest quality and capable of raising the standards for our industry.   Only by taking these steps are we able to ensure that we we deliver the type of services that are worthy of the sacrifices made by our military veterans and others.

As we enter 2020, we ask our readers to consider supporting our efforts to continue to grow and enter this new phase. We recognize that there is a tendency for the community to preferentially fund large programs.  It is our belief that increasing funding for non-credentialed programs will not best serve the needs of our community.

Thank you all for your support in the past and we look forward to serving our community moving forward.

Classroom News

Advanced Class – the class is hard at work on public access training, and the teams are learning the new sights and sounds of being in public.  There are so many things we take for granted that dogs must be taught to process, such as elevators, overhead blowers, motion activated displays and more.  Dakota has mastered the ability to returns items to a cabinet and get help from a distance; Bruno has mastered the ability to carry items at a distance between family members; and Samson has mastered retrieval of dropped items and has begun work on the command “brace”.

Beginner Class – this class begins this Saturday, and we would like to issue a warm and fuzzy welcome to all of our new students.

New military veterans:

  • Brian Flores – Marines
  • Soyini Blanchard – Army
  • Celia Mopkins – Army
  • Henry Smith – Marines
  • Ross Estrella – Navy
  • William DeVoe Jr – Army
  • 2 more military applications pending

Local Resident / Recipient:

  • Deanna McCarthy

Student Trainers

  • Keeta Mackay
  • Yamil Perez
  • Lindsey Carlson

Wellness Tip

Car safety – this is an issue that does not get due attention, but can be a matter of life or death in the event of a wreck.  We present some practical tips to keep your dog safe when traveling.

  1. A SD must not ride up on the seat
  2. Provide a seatbelt harness for your dog
  3. SDs must be on the floor when using public transportation and are NEVER permitted to ride in a seat intended for human use
  4. Your dog should never ride up front with the driver as this can cause distractions

Did you know that the impact in a 55 mph collision for an unrestrained 75 lb dog is 4,125 pounds of force?  This is not survivable.  Buckle up!

A Thousand Thanks to…

We wish to express our appreciation to those individuals or groups that have supposed the FSDS during this past month:

  • Valerie Schluter
  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
  • Chewy.com
  • Tim Smith
  • Hills Pet Nutrition / Tim Ganahl
  • Tom and Sharon Linton
  • Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
  • Richard Elder
  • Girl Scout Troop #3384
  • Dan Rabin

Photo  Gallery

Enjoy the photos from our annual holiday party.  A very special thank you to our dear friends at the Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand for coming out to celebrate with our students.  Our thanks as well to the lovely young women from Girl Scout Troop #3384 and their wonderful leader for decorating our facility for the party.  This support of our program is deeply appreciated.

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