Counterintuitively, it’s dog lovers and their dogs — separately and together — that cause the greatest challenges for service dogs and their owners. When I asked for topic suggestions, a woman who uses a service dog for PTSD support responded about problems caused her and her dog by well-meaning people and/or their dogs.
Here’s an email I received from Stephanie Fontana, who proposed the topic based on a bad experience she and her service dog recently had in a Costco store, thanks to an inconsiderate dog owner.
“My name is Stephanie and I am a resident of Watsonville Ca, here on the central coast. My Service Dog is Iris Mae, a Queensland Heeler mix. She’s in her first year of training with Operation Freedom Paws, located in San Martin Ca.
“Iris and I have a close relationship as service dog and handler. Every week I train her, I learn something new about us as we work together towards becoming more independent and getting back to a regularly scheduled life :)”
During the podcast, Stephanie talks about the bad experience and the negative impact it had on both her and her dog.
My other guest, Mary Cortani, is the founder and CEO of Operation Freedom Paws. Founded in 2010 when a former Marine approached her in seeking assistance in acquiring a service dog to help him overcome an anxiety disorder caused by combat hyper-vigilance. Please read more about Mary and becoming how she became a CNN Heroes recipient in 2012.
Founded in January 2010, Operation Freedom Paws is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that matches dogs with individuals who have Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Complex-Post Traumatic Stress (CPTS) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) symptoms, or other physical, neurological, psychological or mobility needs.
We train the individual to train their own dog, and then certify them together as a service dog team. It’s been an incredible learning journey and outlet for myself this past year as I felt with the challenges of also caring for a sick family member.
Please check out their website for more information