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37 Reviews
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October 3, 2014
2 people found this review helpful

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October 3, 2014
2 people found this review helpful

Mary and her team are amazing. Her drive and passion to help her clients and their animals is noteworthy. She is brilliant and that is why she is where she is. Not many people can care as deeply as Mary. She takes each client and dog team very seriously and treats them with respect. She considers them her family. I've worked with helping Mary find rescue dogs with service potiental over the last 4 years. What an amazing model to save animals as well as humans. OFP is a non profit that have moved mountains for many, and will continue to save lives of our Veterans & their families (and shelter dogs!) for years to come. Thank you OFP for breaking down the barriers for our service men and women. And doing do in a compassionate and humane way by utilizing animals that would otherwise die waiting in shelters.
October 1, 2014
3 people found this review helpful

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2 previous reviews - show all
April 25, 2013

Last year I reviewed Operation Freedom Paws as a volunteer, and I am still in that role. However, I am now a client as well. Mary Cortani, founder of OFP, is helping me train my rescued pit bull to be... more

October 1, 2014
3 people found this review helpful

I have been honored to be involved with Operation Freedom Paws since their nonprofit status was granted in 2011. Many lives have been positively impacted in a short time by the vision and dedication of everyone involved with this organization. As a client myself, I have learned to create an extremely strong bond with my service dog, who has been taught to alert me to the presence of peanuts. She makes it easier for me to go to restaurants and not constantly worry about whether I'm going to have an embarrassing and life-threatening allergic reaction in public.

Besides my personal experience, I have been privileged to work alongside veterans who have struggled with isolation, anger, hypervigilance (typical symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress) as well as Traumatic Brain Injuries and mobility issues. Seeing the inprovement in their confidence and relationships with strangers and family members are incredibly gratifying. Working with their dogs gives them a new mission, and a partner who helps them regain their independence.

Other fellow clients are children and adults with medical and psychological issues whose doctors believe can be helped by a service dog. It is particularly rewarding to watch children and young adults begin to comfortably interact with fellow students---these are kids who have been "special" all their lives. Now they feel special in a GOOD way, because they have well-behaved service dogs at their sides that they trained themselves.

The pride we all take in having trained our own service dogs is immense. We recognize that we are public ambassadors for ourselves, disabled people with service dogs, and Operation Freedom Paws.
April 25, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

Last year I reviewed Operation Freedom Paws as a volunteer, and I am still in that role. However, I am now a client as well. Mary Cortani, founder of OFP, is helping me train my rescued pit bull to be a peanut-sniffing medical alert service dog. I have had a lifelong (and life-threatening) allergy to peanuts. Last year I was told by a friend about peanut-alert service dogs that can be purchased from other organizations. After doing some internet research, I asked Mary if, with her background of training Army dogs to sniff out bombs and drugs, she might be able to help my dog learn to alert on peanuts. Mary's training methods vary depending on the client and the dog. She uses different equipment for each dog, depending on the dog and handler's physical attributes and needs. We started with nose work and then began focusing on peanuts....and it's working! A couple of weeks ago she alterted on a donut and a banana that were sprinkled with them.

I still thoroughly enjoy volunteering with the group as well. It's a joy to see veterans and others struggling with PTSD, TBI and/or mobility challenges coming out of their shells and having the confidence to interact with fellow students because they have their dogs beside them. The combination of veterans, civilians, service dog clients, and paying customers training their pets gives everyone an opportunity to form new relationships. Everyone bonds through their dogs, and we celebrate each individual milestone with every member of our "OFP family".

More feedback...

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

July 1, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

In 2010 a military veteran contacted dog-trainer Mary Cortani. He had been waiting for a service dog for a long time, and wondered if she could somehow help him. That was the beginning of Operation Freedoms Paws, which teaches individuals the necessary skills to train their own service dogs, then certifies them together as a service dog team. The dogs, usually from rescue organizations or shelters, are evaluated by OFP volunteers and then matched with a specific person to meet his/her physical and psychological needs. I became involved with the group while attending dog-training classes, and I'm incredibly proud to have the opportunity to volunteer with this organization.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

attending dog-training classes and having the opportunity to meet the people being helped by OFP's Service Dog program. The impact that dogs can have on the lives of veterans suffering from PTSD is amazing. Mary has a special gift for matching the right dog with the right person.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

give them a larger budget!

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

The group is new, and the national publicity they have recently received from a CNN Hero award has been overwhelming. Everyone is scrambling to respond to requests for information and help---the infrastructure to support this explosion of interest isn't there yet, but it will be!

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Have made lots of new friends, both human and canine. My dog has learned new skills very quickly, and has benefitted from all the socialization, discipline and exposure. I had been considering taking a grant-writing class, and when Mary said this could help her group, I took the plunge. I still have a long way to go, but I'm enjoying what I've experienced of the process so far.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Useful.

November 20, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

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Review from Guidestar
November 20, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

I first met OFP's founder, Mary Cortani, in 2011. My heart was warmed by her group's powerful mission and I was amazed at what she had been able to accomplish is such a short amount of time. Mary has transformed her passion of working with dogs and helping others into an organization that has blossomed in the last 2 years and been able to help so many deserving group members. It is truly wonderful to see our Veterans receiving the help they need through OFP. The other beneficiary of this program are the dogs, many of which are rescued from shelters, and given another chance in life as well. Mary's organization proves that love can heal all wounds.

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

July 2, 2013
3 people found this review helpful

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July 2, 2013
3 people found this review helpful

In 2003 I was declared permanently and totally disabled with, "No Improvement Likely". That was TEN long years ago. My PTSD has robbed me of most of the enjoyment of my life as well as most everything even just activities of daily life.

When a beautiful dog came into our lives we decided
maybe we would try to train him to help me. Unfortunately there just are no organizations in the rural, remote are we live in. The dream then of having a 'service dog' became overwhelming. We were lost.

Then, one day call it fate, I stumbled on the Operation Freedom Paws facebook page. I find it difficult to express how truly wonderful these folks are. They didn't know me, I live a thousand miles away from them, I'm not in their classes, I have nothing to offer them and yet these amazing people extended a hand, offered training tips and ENCOURAGEMENT.

They are completely non-judgmental and the positive environment that they maintain keeps me 'up'. They also understand PTSD better than any psychiatrist I've been to.

I nearly cry as I write this. With their encouragement then we as a dog team became brave, we began going OUT to the store, down the street and in the process of training the dog, I began FOCUSING on something other than my disability. Having the disabled person train the service dog is the brilliance behind this whole idea. Disabled people need a purpose and that is exactly what this fulfills.

As my 'service dog in-training' actually began to complete his tasks in helping me, I began to have HOPE again for the first time in a decade.

Hope is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Get them more national exposure. This organization TRULY is a high quality group of people that are making a very real difference in people's lives.

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

June 17, 2013

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1 previous review
April 28, 2013

I was becoming disabled and finding that hard to accept.Operation Freedoms Paws was offered to me and it was a wonderful program. I trained my dog and became more comfortable walking for exercise. Eve... more

June 17, 2013

I joined Mary when she was trying to find a place where she could follow through on her idea to train pound puppies for returning soldiers. The idea was the pups would help the Often PTSD affected Soldiers reintegrate with society. A warm furry friend , also a non judgmental friend. There are many ways life can be hard for the Military "yes Sir' person to get used to normal family life. I really did not know how strongly Mary felt about this but she is a focused former Army member and was tenascious in her outlook. Totly dedicated. It hturned out to be a very wonderful dream and I am so glad that it is working out. She is a special person, and deserves all the support she can get. I am not a soldier and I can't tell you about the sucess for them. but as a cilvianpanic attach victum I know My service dog was wa real help.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

None

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 28, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

I was becoming disabled and finding that hard to accept.Operation Freedoms Paws was offered to me and it was a wonderful program. I trained my dog and became more comfortable walking for exercise. Everyone associated with OFP Helped. The Veterans were well matched with dogs for their needs it is like a flow of magic from Mary who picks out a shelter dog for the veterans. She then helps them train the dogs and both woman and men are treated equally. There are wheelchair bound and ambulatory veterans so there are many skills in OFP training and they are worked on at every class. The Veterans seem Happy and calm with their new helpers.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 30, 2013
5 people found this review helpful

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1 previous review
October 16, 2012

I'm a disabled Vietnam vet. My dog and were accepted to the training in July of this year. I cannot find enough words to describe how much my life has changed. Having PTSD, it was a major step for ... more

April 30, 2013
5 people found this review helpful

Our experience with Operation Freedom Paws has been life-changing. My wife knew she was slowly losing me to PTSD. Fortunately, my VA counselor recommended OFP to us. Founder, Mary Cortani, accepted me and my puppy as veteran-clients last July, 2012. I committed to the program largely because of Mary's military background in dog training. Our family and friends have been relived and surprised by the progress and healing they have witnessed.

My 130-pound puppy and I enjoy our training sessions and continue to learn new skills from Mary and her team that help us maneuver in public settings. Abbey and I look forward to seeing our OFP family, human and canine. I am able to go out in public again because I have a companion that is trained to assist with my specific needs.

We will continue to volunteer our time to OFP after graduation because the program provides such a valuable service to our veterans. It is also heart warming to see the rescued shelter dogs so happy to please their new owners.

More feedback...

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

October 16, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

I'm a disabled Vietnam vet. My dog and were accepted to the training in July of this year. I cannot find enough words to describe how much my life has changed. Having PTSD, it was a major step for me to start. Mary Cortani told me that she would have my back at all times and that OFP was a safe environment. She has done that and more. I find myself looking forward to training and becoming a team with my dog. OFP has changed my life in a very wonderful way. Mary and her great team do a super service to veteran and others with disabilities.

More feedback...

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

April 26, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

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April 26, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

One word. AMAZING. This group lead by their fearless hero, Mary Cortani, is one of the most unique orgs out there. They not only save dogs lives by pulling out special animals from high kill shelters, they save lives of those who have sacrificed everything : our veterans of war who return with invisible wounds like PTSD and TBI. I was lucky enough to meet Mary when placing a dog from my local shelter with her. I was invited to see the Vet meet his new best friend, DJ. It was something I will never forget. Moving is an understatement. OFP holds a very special place in my heart and I will always have the upmost respect for Mary and her AWESOME program!!!!!!!!!! She has truly saved lives of our Veterans. Without her help, many of them would have died waiting to get a trained service dog from other orgs. But because Mary believes in letting the Vet train their own dog, these men and women wait around a month or so to have a dog placed with them. Months, compared to YEARS can make all the difference in life or death. 10 stars for Mary and all of her OFP family!!!

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 25, 2013
3 people found this review helpful

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April 25, 2013
3 people found this review helpful

in March 2010, my husband was hospitalized for a severe case of pneumonia. He was also diagnosed with the beginning stages of emphysema, which was not all that surprising since he had been a heavy smoker for over 40 years up to that point. After spending close to a week in the hospital, he was released with a very promising prognosis and a commitment to never light up another cigarette.

Unfortunately, all of this wonderful progress was short-lived. On the 3rd day after being released from the hospital, he began his medication regimen which included a new antibiotic that he had not been given previously in the hospital. Within 5 minutes of taking it, he underwent an anaphylactic shock which caused one of his lungs to completely shut down and he nearly died. After being rushed back to the hospital and spending several more days recovering from this medical episode, he was released. Thus began a 3 year journey of watching my husband who had always been the calm leader and primary provider of our household transform into a completely different man who was unable to work and was continuously anxious and becoming increasingly depressed.

Everything was turned inside out and upside down. Life was no longer “normal” as we knew it. All the dreams and plans that we had for this time in my life for traveling, spending time with grand kids, being financially secure, were vanishing like grains of sand running through a sieve.

Now three years later, through the help of Operation Freedom Paws and Mary Cortani's compassionate training program with veterans and civilians and their dogs, we literally have a new lease on life and hope for the future. Mary's focus on training the handler and the dog has provided what the multitude of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications could not provide. Although my husband still has issues of anxiety which is probably now more of a result of the COPD issues that he has to cope with, he is able to go out on his own because of his service dog. Before, he had a very difficult time going out without me accompanying him. He has also been able to stop using one of the medications that he was on for depression. It has been a real blessing for our family.

We have always had a heart for organizations that provide services to our veterans. As supporters of several veteran organizations including another service dog program in Florida, we were thrilled to find Operation Freedom Paws, a local organization that we could not only support financially but also participate as clients in. Mary Cortani and her staff of volunteer mentor trainers have been a God-send to us and I cannot say enough positive things about them. We are living proof that her program works!

More feedback...

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 25, 2013

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1 previous review
October 9, 2012

I am a disabled veteran. I have vision, hearing, mobility, and balance issues as a result of my military service. The VA physical therapist indicated that I needed the cane for mobility, but using it ... more

April 25, 2013

I am a disabled veteran with a service dog that did a little training at Operation Freedom Paws. Their program was very similar to the program where I obtained my service dog from, only bigger in scope. My dog and I had no problem blending in with the Operation Freedom Dog training routine. There were over two dozen dogs and handlers in training and the program went very smoothly. The only down size was just that size ... more space would sure be a benefit to a program that provides priceless support and encouragement to disabled veterans.

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

October 9, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

I am a disabled veteran. I have vision, hearing, mobility, and balance issues as a result of my military service. The VA physical therapist indicated that I needed the cane for mobility, but using it was destroying my shoulder and there was nothing she could do to prevent that. I was very fortunate to obtain a service dog to replace the cane. Not only did the service dog ameliorate the slowly disintegrating shoulder, but the service dog learned to assist me with my blind and deaf left side and damaged cerebellum. In other words, the service dog helped restore a quality of like I lost 30 years ago as a result of my military service. This program is A+ and truly benefits America's veterans.

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

April 25, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

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April 25, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

My role was not really listed as I just became a member who will be in training commencing May 18th. However, I can say that I've been looking for a program such as this type for the past 3 years (and in secret as I didn't want anyone to know of my interest in service dogs!). I suffer from PTSD / MST which is hard enough for me to divulge in itself, however; I finally got an affirmation from my counselor who suggested getting a service dog for both companion and work. I found out about Operation Freedoms Paws and had compared the program to a number of others. Now let me be clear, I believe that all these organizations who work with service dogs for Vets are all pronominal and deserve recognition, however; where I saw a big difference was in the manner in which Mary Cardoni - Founder of Operation Freedoms Paws, conducts her placing of service dogs with the character of the vets they be teaming up with. Key word being "TEAMING" as the understanding is that the Veteran is totaling emerged in learning to train his/her dog. The benefits and advantages to this approach in training are countless and I'm sure each person involved will count his or her blessing once they start the program. I believe Mary Cortani is a Trail Blazer of Operation Freedoms Paws her techniques may be the most important evolution in training that many organizations should follow.

Jorge L. Rodriguez
USMC

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

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