Operation Freedoms Paws

Rating: 4.98 stars   41 reviews

Issues: Veterans

Location: 777 First Street Pmb 515 Gilroy CA 95020 USA

Mission:
2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

3 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.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

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.

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

None

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

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

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.

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

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Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

Operation Freedom Paws is an incredible organization. While living in Monterey I had the chance to get to know Mary Cortani and I have learned so much from her. Even though I moved to Hawaii two years ago, Mary is still a great friend and will always be there to give good advice and listen when there is a dog crisis.
I have seen her and the great OFP trainers transform veterans and shelter dogs in incredible teams that are saving each other. They put a lot of work in socialization and obedience training. I am so happy for them that they move to a new and bigger facility so that they can help more veterans and other people in need of a service dog and help with dog training. I can't wait to visit and see them all in action again!

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I love Operation Freedoms Paws, while living in California I was fortunate enough to meet Mary Cortani , she is a incredible trainer with a natural sense on matching teams together and strengthening them. For the most part I worked with Mary on Sundays during her hobby as a Search and Rescue Dog trainer for MCSARD :-) But I was always welcome to join her classes in Gilroy. I enjoyed every class, watching the veterans learning to trust in their dogs was just amazing. On days where new veterans came without a dog yet, Mary would give them one of my dogs, Sean to see how the vets would do with him and I could coach them a bit. Sean always loved it, since that just meant more treats for him :-) I will always support Operation Freedoms Paws and their amazing cause!!!

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?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

My service dog and I continue to learn and grow with Operation Freedom Paws. She started out being trained as a peanut-alert dog to help me avoid reactions from my life-threatening allergy. But she learned also to alert me to back pain that I've dealt with for 40 years. She tells me to sit down and take a break before the pain gets so bad that I HAVE to stop. She learned this on her own, and it took me a while to recognize it. But her alerts really help keep me from overdoing and paying for it the next day!

I also am privileged as an OFP staff member to work with the veterans that OFP helps by teaching them to train their own service dogs to help with injuries like PTSD, brain injuries, mobility assistance, and hearing loss. It's incredibly rewarding to watch veterans and rescued dogs work diligently together, learning to become well-matched teams. In this program, dogs and people save each other, and the bonds they share are truly life-altering.

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Review from Guidestar
1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

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.

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

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".

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

Was this review helpful? 
1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

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.

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.

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

give them a larger budget!

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.

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