Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Some things change, some things stay the same(ish)

Well, August is almost here.  Where in the heck has 2015 gone!

We have a few changes happening in August, mainly in preparation for increasing our numbers as our new Associate Trainers finish start to move from the "training" phase of their probation and into the "doing" phase.  Once our new additions are ready, we will be able to handle more teams in training at one time.  Of course, we are very excited and looking forward to assisting more veterans and dogs.  It also means that our current class structure needs some adjustments to ensure everyone is getting the best service possible for such a large group.  One of the things that will help this restructuring is our budding mentor program.

Summer can be a hard time to make changes because kids are out of school, vacations happen, and generally it is a time of regeneration and recreation for people.  Despite that, we have quite a bit of interest from graduates about the mentor program.  Things should really pick up in August once the kids go back to school.  It is going to be wonderful for enrollees to have access to graduates of the program who have had similar experiences and struggled to the ones they are facing while going through training.  I have already seen some benefits with the limited contact that has taken place already and can't wait to see our graduates in action as things pick up.

Then there is Celebration of Heroes coming up at the end of August!  Time to honor our graduates and recognize all those wonderful people who make what Paws and Stripes does possible.  Each year this event gets better.  Basically, it is a big ol' party and we love it.  Work hard/play hard...see some things stay the same(ish).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


My goodness, so much has been going on here at Paws and Stripes. I have barely managed to keep up with the other social media duties and CLEARLY the blog has taken a back seat.  But, I think I may have managed to adjust to all the new developments and am back into some kind of routine (fingers crossed).  There is much to share, but I am going to do it in installments so the posts stay on the "quick and easy to read" side of things.

For those who get the Paws and Stripes Newsletter, this blog will be taking the place of "From the DoE's Desk"  in addition to other topics as they come up.  Posts will range from program updates to general training or service dog related topics (and maybe the odd wild hair, just because).

Nathan Savage
Now for the first bit of BIG NEWS!  A few months ago, Paws and Stripes received a grant which provided funding for additional trainers and since then, we have been in the process of hiring.  I am happy to announce that, between May 1 and July 1 our Training Department almost doubled in size! We now have three new Associate Trainers going through their probationary period working a total number 73 hours per week between them. That means that once they are fully trained, we will be able to DOUBLE the number of Teams we can enroll in the program at any given time!

Dianna Franco
Ariel Madrigal-Wisely

We are very excited about the prospect of increasing our capacity.  Each new Trainer has their own strengths and will enhance the program in their own unique way.

As I have done in the past, I will dedicate a whole post to each of them in the months to come.  But here is a little teaser to give you a taste of our new talent and what each of them brings to the table:

served as a United States Marine and is a Paws and Stripes Graduate.  He and his service dog Pepper finished the program in January 2012.

was one of our  interns and impressed us so much that we asked her to become a member of staff.  She has a degree in Psychology and Anthropology and experience working with individuals with various medical conditions.

has experience training pets at an international pet store chain and has an education in companion animals and introductory speech pathology studies.  She relocated from over three hours away to join the Paws and Stripes family.

Normally, I prefer more candid shots, but I am breaking the newbies in slowly so everyone got a few seconds warning that the camera was coming out.  I even let them mess about in front of a mirror before they got to pose for their pictures.

I hope they enjoyed it because it probably won't happen that way very often in the future!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meet our Family!: Yvette Magee

Yvette and Ludo
Next in our "meet the family" series is Yvette Magee.  Our most recent Senior Trainer, Yvette has been with us since August of 2012.  She is an amazing addition to the Training Department and our "hands-free" advocate.  She loves to help strengthen that bond of confidence and trust between veteran and dog by using hands-free control.  Here is a bit about Yvette...

1) What made you decide to become a Paws and Stripes Trainer?
Hmm. Let me think. That was a long time ago! I liked the idea of working with dogs while using my previous background and including the “medical” element of working with TBI & PTSD.  I also thought it would be a challenge that allowed for personal growth.  I was looking forward to gaining knowledge that I could not get, otherwise.

2) What do you like most about working at Paws and Stripes?
I definitely have to say it’s the comradery, the atmosphere and my coworkers.  I love the fact that we are listened to and our opinions are valued.  I have seen some of my ideas developed since I have been here.

On top of that, service dog training for veterans makes me feel like I am supporting people who have dedicated their lives for our freedom.

3) What do you find most challenging about working at Paws and Stripes?
It can be hard watching the Teams struggle.  It is frustrating when a veteran does not realize their dog’s potential which can happen throughout the program, especially in the beginning or when they hit a wall.

4) How is Paws and Stripes service dog training different from pet training?
The expectations for the dogs are very different because they are relied on by the veteran.  The skills learned must be spot-on so the Team can be successful in public situations.  When training pets, there is a lot more leniency because most people do not put their pets in such challenging circumstances.

5)  What are your short term goals?
In the near future, I plan to pass the CPDT-KA test, lead my first dog assessment, and continue to develop my skills working with reactive dogs.

6) Do you have any message for the people out there?
Remember that service dogs are essential to the wellbeing of their handlers.  Allowing Teams to go about their business with discretion and respect helps the dog to stay focused and lets the handler lead a productive life.