I thought it might be nice to introduce you to the amazing people that make up the Paws and Stripes family. I am going to start with one of our dedicated Trainers, Josh Kendall. Actually, Josh is more than just a Paws and Stripes Trainer, he is also a graduate of the program. He is an excellent example of how the Paws and Stripes program can change a Veteran's life for the better. So, here is a bit about Josh . . .
1) What made you decide to become a Paws and Stripes Trainer?
The people. When I went through the program, I experienced the people working at Paws and Stripes. I had a lot of challenges in my program and I had to get very good at dog handling and stay persistent. Many times I called someone at Paws and Stripes saying that the program was too hard and I wanted to withdraw. But, I didn't really want to quit, I just needed the encouragement to continue. Everyone at Paws and Stripes was very supportive and when I graduated I wanted to give back to the program. So, when I was approached about the possibility of becoming a Trainer, I jumped at the chance.
2) What do you like most about working at Paws and Stripes?
Again, the people. This is not what I would call a typical job. The supervisors listen and everyone understands my disabilities. That makes a big difference to me and makes it easier to come to work each day.
3) What do you find most challenging about working at Paws and Stripes?
I guess the hardest thing for me is to avoid taking work home and taking the Teams' struggles home with me. I know it is not an easy program, but I also know what a difference graduating has made in my life so I want everyone to succeed. It can be hard for me to see them struggling.
I do have trouble coming up with the words to provide clear instructions. I know what I want to say and it is clear in my head, but it doesn't always come out that way when I speak-especially if I am working in front of a group. It can be frustrating, but I am getting better and it helps to work with people who are patient and give me the space to work it out.
4) What are some of the benefits you experienced while going through the Paws and Stripes program?
Ha . . . let me count the ways! There are a lot of them, but I will give you the "big" ones.
-I learned to talk about how I was doing instead of bottling things up until I blew. Now, instead of pushing through and burning out, I have learned to pace myself and accept when I need to give myself a break.
-It opened up communication with my family and friends. Now, they have a better understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis. They have all commented on how much I have changed since I got Gromit and went through the program.
-I go out in public now. That is something I hardly ever did . . . and ONLY when absolutely necessary.
-I have been employed with Paws and Stripes for almost 2 years. This is the longest I have managed to keep a job since I separated from the Marines.
-I have developed a deep appreciation for dogs. Before entering the program, I was not a big dog lover. In fact, I was so uncomfortable around them, I thought Gromit was going to eat my face while I was sleeping!
5) What are your short term goals?
I want to keep training for Paws and Stripes, of course. But I am also preparing to that the CPDT-KA exam (a national certification for dog trainers) to add to my ABCDT certification. After that, I will probably pursue the CPDT-KSA certification.
6) Do you have any message for the people out there?
Live in the present, not the past. Plan for the future, don't worry about it