After a tour of the facilities and observing the dog training in action, I can readily say that Operation Freedom Paws is a five-star facility and operation.
Some organizations help disabled veterans, some organizations help dogs, some help rescue dogs.
Operation Freedom Paws is the Trifecta!
As a client served I enjoy giving back and helping others on their journeys in the training that OPF offers. I’m very greatful for what OFP has done for me and my family, but it is so rewarding to see what Mary and her team are doing in changing the lives of others. The smiles you see are “priceless”.
I have been involved with Operation Freedom Paws for over 4 years now. I started as a client with my dog Abbey in July 2012. Abbey and I became a certified team in June 2013. This program has saved my life and given me a new purpose. OFP has become a very important part of my and my family's life. We have continued in training and now I also serve as a Board Member which I have found to be very rewarding. Seeing changes in lives of other clients as well as my own has been one of the greatest things to be apart of. This is a wonderful organization and I honored to be to be serving with it.
Review from Guidestar
I am a volunteer at OFP, and although they show so much gratitude to me every time I help out, I am the one who is grateful. I feel so lucky to be involved with this most amazing organization. The other reviews tell first hand what OFP does for the clients, so obviously, they're doing something so valuable. But from my perspective, I get to spend a couple of days each week observing from the inside clients and employees alike sharing the most positive energy I have ever felt. Employees and volunteers are there because they care and seem to love what they are doing. And clients are there because they are doing something that improves their lives and they sure look like they're having fun. And the dogs seem so engaged and so happy and so well loved. Thank you, OFP, for letting me participate.
Review from Guidestar
I am a 70 year old female veteran. I am in a power wheelchair, am diabetic, have TBI, PTSD, serious balance issues etc. Obviously not someone that is an "easy case". I tried for about 4 years to get a service dog. Contacted the VA, and every agency that trains dogs that I could find all over the U.S. I pretty much decided to give it one last try when I contacted operation Freedom Paws.
When they told me to come down for an interview I will admit I was terrified they would turn me away. I was/am at a point where a three year waiting list was just too daunting to take on.
I still can't believe they accepted me (part of my PTSD etc makes it really difficult to see any worth in myself). I have been matched with a beautiful soul...a black lab named Tebow. We live almost a thousand miles away and it is not easy.......but it is beyond worth it.
Thanks to OFP and Tebow I am more hopeful about my life than I have been in years.
Review from Guidestar
I am not a veteran And my dog is not a service dog. We are members of the general public who have decided to support this great organization by taking classes they offer to the public.
My dog Maya and I have been taking obedience classes that are offered here. Maya is deaf and I was having difficulty learning to communicate with her.
OFP and their staff have been so encouraging and patient with us.
I have had multiple dogs throughout my life time and have taken obedience training classes with each dog and various places and I have to say, hands down, I have had THE best experience here.
I will continue to take as many training classes as they offer for as long as I can. The pups and the people trained at OFP are amazing.
I recommend them to anyone and everyone I know.
Review from Guidestar
I am not a client or volunteer but I've been following this amazing organization for a few years. They provide a needed service for our veterans and for civilians with disabilities too. The Monday Mentoring posts gave helped me with my own dog. I now take him to our community park when we go on walks so that he gets his olfactory exercise too. After reading a tip about a dogs sense of smell I started this practice and he loves it. Other tips about body language have helped me too. I pay attention to that now and it has really helped me to know what he's trying to tell me.
This non profit seems to be very good at helping a lot of people and their dogs in many different ways. It's so wonderful to see and hear about the dedication of this group of people. They seem to do it all and rescue dogs that need a home and a job.
Review from Guidestar
It has been one year since I finished this program. It has made a huge difference in my life. Operation Freedom Paws has an excellent staff of volunteers who really care for their clients. Mary Cortani is very passionate about helping veterans and non veterans who have disabilities that are seen and unseen. This program saves lives; it has saved mine.
Operation Freedom Paws - 4 paws, 2 feet, 1 team. For some strange reason, I thought I would be the team leader. My service dog, Linda, is a Black Lab and a career change dog. Bred to be a guide dog for the blind, she didn’t make the cut--too much personality. Linda can also be a bit demanding. You see, I have multiple sclerosis and I guess you could also call her my caregiver. When I am tired (which happens often), she tells me when to sit down or when to lie down and take a nap. She tells me when I need to get up and start moving around. Linda provides the balance that I lack. She comforts me when my memory fails, which helps me regain my thoughts. Add these things together and I have more confidence in myself. As for me being the team leader, things are much better when Linda is in charge.
Review from Guidestar
I have multiple sclerosis and I am amazed with what Operation Freedom Paws can do with people. They add one service dog and lives are changed. I have found the more confidence I have in my dog, the more confidence I have in myself. Four paws, two feet, one team. Once I realized that I am not the team leader, the easier everything else was. If I am not sure what to do, I have learned to trust the dog.
I became a client with Operation Freedom Paws in late 2010. Very shortly after beginning the process I realized that this was going to be much more than dog training. OFP literally saved my life (more than once) in my darkest days. They have brought me closer to my wife and children, and have included me into the OFP family.
With the help of Mary Cortani and her staff I am walking proud and have found a new mission in life- helping others build a new life as a Mentor Trainer with Operation Freedom Paws.
Review from Guidestar
Words cannot express my gratitude for OFP. I received a diabetic alert dog from another agency for 15K and she had no public access skills. OFP took me into their program free of charge in 2015 and today she is a different dog. She has all the behavioural skills necessary to be a service dog. Not only does she alert me to out of healthy range blood sugars, she has also assisted me with recognizing my fatigue due to my Multiple Sclerosis. She has also helped me up after falls and helps calm my anxiety. I am so impressed with the integrity of this non-profit in all areas of their business. They are truly saving veterans and dogs lives everyday. It has become my passion to volunteer for OFP to help others experience this life changing love!
Review from Guidestar
I am a diabetic and also have multiple sclerosis. I started having dangerous low blood sugars and I needed a diabetic alert dog that would alert me before my blood sugar went out of range, so I could take corrective action before a medical problem appeared.I did fundraising and raised 15K from my community supporters to purchase my diabetic alert dog from a traditional service dog organization. The dog I received at a weekend pickup meeting was unfortunately only very minimally trained, only 8 months old, did some alerting, but lacked many of the basic obedience and public access skills required for a service dog. I was badly in need of some help with my dog and am so grateful that Mary Cortani and Operation Freedom Paws took me under their wings in Jan 2015. In the past three months my dog improved greatly in her obedience and public access skills as well as alerting me. A big surprise and blessing to me was that I thought I was going to OFP to train my dog. I found out that my life improved as much as my dog's! Through working with OFP I have experienced the beginning of emotional healing from past trauma, as well as improved physical, mental and spiritual health. I am looking forward to the healing continuing for all.
Working with OFP has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and for that I will forever be eternally grateful!
Review from Guidestar
I have been involved with Operation Freedom Paws since 2012. I was a volunteer, then a customer, then a client, then a staff member. I envisioned my retirement quite differently, but I am passionate about OFP , its methods, and its clients. Over 2 million dogs are euthanized in the US every year. Doctors are learning that service dogs can help with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, diabetes, seizures, autism, allergen detection....the list is constantly growing. By using rescued dogs and teaching the client to train his/her own dog for his/her specific disabilities, OFP creates a healing bond that is hard to describe, but a joy to witness. I have my own service dog, a rescued pit bull whom I trained under OFP's guidance to help me with my life-threatening peanut allergy. On her own, she figured out how to help me with the anxiety that is part of a serious food allergy like mine, as well as with pain management from a 40-year old back injury. OFP has changed my life, and I've watched the lives of many other people change since 2012. I'm proud to give OFP a 5-star review.
Review from Guidestar
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.
Review from Guidestar
Excellent experience for us and our two malamutes! We work out of state and have to rely on referrals for dog boarding. A veterinary office, with exceptionally good reviews, highly recommended Operation Freedom Paws for boarding.
The employees were very welcoming, kind and extremely knowledgable about dogs and service animals (I am also a dog trainer). Our dogs were calm and stress-free as we were given the tour of their facility.
After initially calling around to find expensive and not-so-accommodating kennel arrangements, we were very happy that Operation Freedom Paws let our dogs stay together and play outdoors a lot. They have good boarding prices and lots of activity for dogs.
Our dogs looked happy and very comfortable with employees - and not in a hurry to leave the facility.
Operation Freedom Paws has changed our lives by providing the tools and support so that my husband can navigate his changed world. When you walk through their doors you feel as though you've found your second family. I have seen first hand the dedication, commitment and selfless giving that goes on by Mary and her crew every day - it is awesome and impactful.
Mary and all the other wonderful people at Operation Freedom Paws are saving lives of the 2 and 4 legged kind everyday! They truly care about helping others. We're so proud to work with this fanatic group!
OFP's is actually right down the street from us. Our first experience there was at the Gala Fundraiser you just had about a month ago. It was amazing to hear what all you do there, how the facilities have expanded and what the future holds in the planning and development. We met some of the dogs and vets and we felt we wanted to jump right in and be a part. We hope to be a part of the volunteer gang soon!!
Diana & Richard Kaiser
Operation Freedom Paws is doing amazing work. As a civilian client, I have had the pleasure of training our family pet. During this time, I was able to witness the transformation of mind, body & spirit. Now as a longtime volunteer I have watched the program become a holistic model for the Veteran, their spouses and children. As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, I understand the impact of PTSD I know that OFP’s mission is changing and saving the lives every day.
I have seen firsthand the amazing work this group does. Like you hear in advertisements for other companies the value this organization brings to both individuals and the community is "priceless". I am and will continue to be an avid advocate and supporter for Operation Freedom Paws!
Jack Kerouac once alluded to life as being more crucial in the "how" rather than the "why" we live our lives. Mary Cortani has solved this puzzle; that, the meaningfulness of life is what we impart to it; that, it is in the giving that one receives. In 2013, after more than 40 years, I made an appointment at the VA in Palo Alto. The doctors there determined that I had the classic symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms, I thought, were normal. Enter Operation Freedom Paws. Thanks to this fine organization and its staff of dedicated volunteers, I'm learning a new normal. All of a sudden, my focus and attention revolved around training and caring for my service dog. Distraction therapy? Brilliant, Mary Cortani! It has been 9 months of training and my life has undergone a palpable metamorphosis; a metamorphosis from the "why" to the "how" I live my life. Thank you, OFP, for saving my life.
As veterans return home, they face numerous obstacles as they transition back into civilian life. Operation Freedom Paws provides a safe and unique opportunity to help make the transition from military life to the civilian life a little easier. The very special therapeutic canine-human relationship helps folks get back out in their communities and begin to view their future with renewed hope.
We have followed OPF for years and last May we had the pleasure of meeting and working with the team at Operation Freedom Paws, we were so impressed with their operation and everyone we meet. Chocology is excited to announce that we’ve partnered with, Operation Freedom Paws, to give you an opportunity to help veterans and/or those with disabilities. For every Fat Ass Fudge order that you place using the code FREEDOMPAWS, Chocology will donate $1.00 ($2 for every order of $50 or more) to help a veteran get the dog s/he needs to empower them in moving forward in life. ChocologyUnlimited.com
I am a donor to Operation Freedom Paws. Their mission is a win-win for everyone: For the dogs they rescue and the clients whom they help, all are given a chance at a better life because of the work they do; some would say life-saving. Unlike other organizations who provide a service dog, the matched client-dog pair train together which is both a great educational experience and forges a strong bond between the dog and client as they work together as a team. This is a wonderful organization. I've followed them for years and can't say enough nice things about them.
I am a veteran with three deployments on my back. Due to my PTSD I have not been able to experience the healing powers of this place but just knowing that you guys are out there and that you help out one of my friends I am able to push myself harder to one day to be able to leave the safety of my apartment and visit you guys.
My two sons were going though a rough time in their life. Both have a bone disease which requires surgeries on a regular basis. Even with professional psychiatric help, we were not able to help them deal with their problems.
We came to OFP to see if there might be some help. The whole organization opened their arms to our family and we received far more than we could have ever imagined. OFP is the best organization I have ever been involved with. All of it's resources are focused on the clients. I have seen people with many different types of life challenges, be effectively helped by OFP.
Without reservation I recommend Operation Freedom Paws as a effective, well run, compassionate, and caring organization.
Review from Guidestar
As a survivor of several different traumas in my life, I was amazed when I thought I was going to foster a dog…………and he saved my life! I was bound to the house in isolation by fear, and I wasn’t even aware of it until Jax came into my life. I thought that this dog could be a wonderful service dog, the problem I was having was finding a training program. That’s where Mary and OFP came to the rescue!! I am not a veteran so I was a little skeptical about being accepted into the program, and Mary had her reservations about Jax at first but then she saw the potential of us becoming a viable team. The training has been amazing however, Mary goes above and beyond constantly in ways that have always astounded me! She has the amazing gift to read people’s emotions, intervene when it’s appropriate, stay silent when it’s a lesson for the individual to learn, and to simply lay it on the line when you need it, even if you don’t want to hear it! She is very stealth and sometimes you aren’t even aware that she knows your alive and then, all of a sudden, wham!! I have gained so much self confidence and learned so much about myself I can’t even begin to say enough about Mary Cortani and her vision, she is such a wise woman!!! Although Jax has his certification, I don’t think I will ever stop going to training and being involved with the OFP team. It has been an honor to be involved in this organization and I will always support it in any way I can. I have met many friends at OFP that will be in my life forever. That is what happens when you bring the best out of people, they become a quality community!! Of course, there is an entire team that makes OFP work: Janet, Jeff, Jeremiah, and George are on the front lines as trainers and they are so appreciated! Then there is the Board of Directors, the staff and all the volunteers that are behind the scenes and are a vital part of the program to make Mary’s vision a reality. "Everything, everyday is a training opportunity".....Thank you so much Mary and the entire OFP Staff!!
We live nearly 2,000 miles away in a very rural area. I had given up hope. Divine intervention brought us to Operation Freedom Paws and through the long distance communications they have guided us every step of the way.
They are professional, compassionate and transparent in their actions. They provided us with up to date, concise information regarding how to properly handle ourselves in public, how to advocate and help educate as part of our role as a service dog team.
My dog has changed my life and has done so with the help of Operation Freedom Paws and Mary Cortani and Janet Wenholz as well as all the other 'OFP Family'.
I was diagnosed with seaver PTSD until I met Mary and the OFP staff I had major problems dealing with people. I've only been in the program for about 30 days and am now able to go to sporting events with my partner Sadie. I am now able to feel normal thanks to Mary Cortani and her staff
I started as the wife of a client. My husband started working with Operation Freedom Paws a little over three years ago training with his dog Lobo. The process changed our lives. With Lobo by his side Jeff was able to fulfill his life long dream of attending college. He served in the Army for 14 years and was never able to finish his degree because of his deployments. He was medically evacuated out of Iraq in 2004 and the aftermath of those injuries changed his life and greatly hampered his ability to feel safe in large crowds and he slowly spiraled in to a deep isolation that threatened our family life. The Work with Operation Freedom Paws gave him the tools to combat his fears, his work with Lobo allowed him to go to college. At college he gained confidence and began working with the veterans groups helping other veterans. I would attend training classes and I was always impressed with how much the dogs could help the veterans. But it was not until we had a huge family tragedy that I realized the depth of caring and support Mary Cortani gives to everyone in the program. In May of 2013 I became very ill, and shortly after that my husband lost his service dog Lobo to a tragic accident. We had lost our income once I got sick, I was faced with huge medical bills and complications and Jeff was beyond devastated by losing his service dog Lobo.The Operation Freedom Paws family, was at our home helping us through this for days and they proved to me how very committed to every member the program is by being present to help us through this terrible time. Mary knew Jeff was devastated by the loss and she understood how the loss was triggering all of his previous war trauma and she knew to introduce him to a new dog to keep him focused on training and not fall into the repair of losing Lobo. So Selah a incredible exuberant yellow lab came into our lives. It took a while for Jeff to be able to see beyond the grief, but Selah in the way only a dog can do - stayed in his face ready to give unending love and the people of Operation Freedom Paws were there two everyday working to help us make our way through.
It was shortly after this that I began to realize how much a service dog could help me with my medical condition and I applied to the program. Now completely disabled and with out a salary, I would never had had the funds to get a service dog in any other way. Operation Freedom Paws paired me with Ellie, and we began training together. Ellie goes with me to al of my hospital visits and she helps me through some very grueling home treatments where I am in PICC lines for 10-12 weeks at a time. I cannot express how much Mary Cortani and all of the folks at Operation Freedom Paws has done for our family. The training is not just about teaching the dog tasks; as it goes so much deeper. As someone who was transitioning into the reality that I was not permanantly disabled by a medical condition that would become worse over time, the training helped me work through all the anger and loss I felt in coming to terms with my new reality. It taught me how to work with my service dog as an extension of myself to allow me to function in the world again, how to begin to feel whole again.
For me, the service dog training has saved my life on a very literal level. Ellie is and extension of me and we work together to manage my medical condition. Ellie alerts me to when I need to take my medication and she helps me with my chronic pain levels. My pain takes a high level of medication to treat and working Ellie has helped me lower my doses on those medicines. My Doctor and I have mapped my progress while working with Ellie, and my blood pressure levels have lowered as well. Ellie has helped me to get back out into the world and feel safe that if I were to fall or go into crisis that she is there to assist me. A month ago, while at home I fell in my bedroom, and I fell in such a way that I could not gather the breath to call for help. I was stuck on the floor between the bed and the wall and unable to breathe. Ellie opened the door and ran down to notify the people in my house that I needed help. The people were outside with the glass door shut and Ellie barked and scratched at the for until they came to open it and then she lead them back to me back in my bed room. Ellie brought me help directly when I needed it and saved me again. My medical condition is permanent and progressive so we are continuing to train new tasks as we need them. This is what makes Operation Freedom Paws so special, so unlike many of the other programs for service animals. They care about you getting back to the best quality of life and they mean it. The people of Operation Freedom Paws are very much my chosen family, the training classes are a safe place for me to go and work through relearning how to do the things that most people take for granted.
Unlike the medical therapy centers who will kick you out as soon as your insurance runs out, I know the Operation Freedom Paws people are in this with me for the long haul. As long as we are wiling to put in the work, and then everyday is a training opportunity. I cannot express how much Operation Freedom Paws has changed mine and my Husband's lives. They have given us the hope that we had lost, and helped us work to regain our quality of life. The service dog training gave my husband hope for the future, as he is close to finishing his degree with honors and has been recognized with awards for service because his service dog Selah gave him the courage to finish school and motivation to give back to other veterans. Now Jeff works as a mentor trainer at OFP and he continues to work for the veterans centers at local colleges. This coming May, my husband will graduate with honors and go on to help others; which is what the program is all about.
Mary Cortani has a vision, it's that vision along with care and understanding that drives her and her team. I was suffering from CONSTANT FEAR, fear of everything and everywhere, I struggled to go to my mailbox or even the corner store to get food when I was out. Finding Operation Freedom Paws has been the best gift I've ever received. Mary has a way of matching a client with a rescue dog that is perfect for that disabled person, she learns about your needs from your application and face to face meeting, then the magic happens. Mary always has dogs that are ready to be matched with a disabled partner and she is also able to get you matched with your dog much faster than any other organization I contacted. The other thing her organization does is get the person out and talking with others that understand the struggles we endure. Believe it or not, the training and everything you need during your training is provided at no cost. That includes Vet costs, food, and any specialized items your dog may need. Learning to train your own service dog under professional supervision, builds a bond with the dog that allows you and your dog to become a natural team. We all train together learning basic obedience skills, then advanced obedience skills. The specialized training that your dog needs for your specific disability or disabilities, is integrated from the beginning, slowly. My life has changed in so many ways that it's ridiculous to try and list, alone I'm a disaster, with my dog I have a life. All of Operation Freedom Paws operating costs are by covered by donation or grant, they are a registered Non-Profit And many volunteer opportunities are available at the new facility, so if you are local, and a dog lover, come sign up and meet Mel the dancing Poodle! Thank you Mary and the team
As a community member, most of the organizations I support financially (and VERY selectively) are civil rights-oriented. Because of my experience with members of their staff and volunteers, I have made an exception for OFP. The professionalism and dedication of the staff and volunteers is amazing and the impact they are making to the lives of these special animals and OFP's human clients is life-changing and inspiring.
I am grateful that OFP is doing this important work and will continue to support them financially. I hope that you'll consider doing the same.
Thanks to all the people at Operation Freedom Paw I have been regaining my confident. I now am able to go to parties and gathering where there are a lot of people and feel more comfortable and enjoy the event.
My husband enjoy this new found freedom as well. He dose not have me glue to him the whole time with a vice grip on his arm.
Review from Guidestar
Thank you Operation Freedom Paws for giving my life back to me. Being outdoors, in crowds, anxiety, depression can now be managed with the help of Bochy, my service dog.
Mary and her team provide excellent support and training, and along the way I have learned a lot about myself. I was amazed how quickly I was accepted into the program. Waiting lists for some programs can be 2-5 years. In my case it was only a few weeks before Bochy and I were matched.
As a non-Veteran, finding a service dog program can be difficult. Mary and team welcomed me with open arms and continue to support Bochy and myself.
Programs like Operation Freedom Paws save lives and it is because of the amazing work Mary and her team proves.
Thank you Operation Freedom Paws!!
Review from Guidestar
Mary and the OFP staff and volunteers are the most unselfish and giving group of people I've ever come across. Mary is hands in and giving of her time in more ways than I can verbalize. OFP has given me the tools to help me deal with my disability and try to manage everyday life as best I can. This is a great organization.
Review from Guidestar
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!
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!!!
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.
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.
Review from Guidestar
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
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
My partner and I have been going to Operation Freedom Paws for close to two months now and it has changed our lives. Mary and the organization provide wonderful training to everyone who attends. My partner and his service dog Bravo could not be happier!
I was first referred to Operation Freedoms Paws in late 2012 by my doctor as one of our last efforts to get my PTSD and panic disorder under control. I met with Mary Cortani in October and was instantly swept away in her vision for veterans who suffer from their wounds of service and for the civilians with their own challenges. I can say without a doubt that this organization has not only changed my life but the service dog I have because of Mary has actually saved my life. I cannot imagine finding a more warm open caring group of individuals who are truly in this organization to better the lives of those around them and to even give shelter dogs a second chance at a heroic new life, serving their disabled people.
There are so many great things that have already been said about Mary and her organization Operation Freedom Paws and how much she helps wounded veterans and all of those things are absolutely true. I also want to point out another great reason to support this incredibly worthy cause - helping animals. Most of the dogs Mary pairs with the Vets are rescues. I am incredibly proud to have met Mary and she helped us turn our bully breed rescue puppy into a loyal and much loved companion. Since we attended the same classes as the Vets we were able to witness first hand the incredible progress they are making thanks to Mary's tireless work.
I am blessed and honored to call Mary Cortani a close personal friend. I can say it is just as special to see Mary build a dream into a reality in the likeness of OFP. Utilizing her military training and her expertise as a canine trainer, Mary has built a foundation to surpass all expectations of service animals. Watching Mary transform a canine and handler into a team, a unit, a partnership is magical. Not only does she give our veterans a second chance to be part of communities, she allows them to break barriers that may have seemed impossible. PTSD, Food Allergies, Anxiety, and Diabetic Levels are just a few conditions off of a long list that Mary trains her Service Dogs to be aware of to protect thier handlers. Mary has selected a strong support team to help provide the services to Veterans in need. Giving new life and hope is also given to the canines she chooses from shelters and rescues. Though the demand is high and the hours are long, Mary is determined to continue the journey with passion and devotion. It is with great pleasure I am able to share this information of OFP and Mary Cortani!
Mary Cortani and Operation Freedoms Paws offer an invaluable service to both veterans and the general public. Mary has a thorough understanding of dogs and their handlers and shares this knowledge in a supportive and effective manner. As a volunteer with a German Shepherd Rescue group I wholeheartedly recommend OFP to all GSD adopters.
I've been fortunate enough to be involved with OFP from the very first pairing of Veteran and Shelter Dog, what a life altering journey this has been for me. I love volunteering and giving my time to this amazing organization. My father is a Marine and I grew up surrounded by military personnel and i understand first hand what those families go through. It brings great joy to me to see the difference this organization and Mary Cortani can make in the lives of our Veterans and their families. As a dog owner and lover the fact that OFP uses dogs from Shelters and local rescue groups is another great reason to support this organization. If you are in need or our services, want to volunteer or donate to our cause you can find more information on our Website, www.operationfreedompaws.org
Operation Freedom Paws is great to work with. I've helped with their social media and video and their people, work, and mission is top-notch. They help improve the lives of animals and veterans. Does it get better than that???!!!
Review from Guidestar
I am a disabled veteran with PTSD, and hearing loss. I was recommended to get a service dog by my Dr. Soon after I found Operation Freedoms Paws and they changed my life. Mary Cortani as well as the mentor trainers provided amazing instruction. Not only did they teach me to train my own dog, but the classes and relationships I have made have been wonder therapy for me as well. I am blessed to have an amazing service dog. He helps me negotiate the world and provide be with a more normal life.
I spent over a decade essentially housebound, afraid to go out and face the world. I was referred to Operation Freedoms Paws and Mary Cortani through the VA, and it has changed my life. I was paired with Shadow, and am now able to not only do daily activities such as shopping, walking around the block, etc., but I am starting to be able to do much more. Just recently I attended a family baby shower - and it had been over 12 years since I have been able to go to a family event. There are not enough good things to say about this organization. They have truly changed my life for the better.
Mary Cortani, the founder of Operation Freedoms Paws, helped my son when no one else would. My 14 year old son has cerebral palsy and wanted a service dog to help him with physical tasks, as well as be his companion. While there are many organizations that train service dogs, there are none locally that will certify anyone under 18 years of age or help you train your own dog. Both my son and I are working through the certification process with his dog, Enzo. During the past 8 months, Mary has spent over 64 hours training with us and has never asked for anything in return. She donates her time, for classes held just about every day of the week where veterans, and those with physical disabilities, train their own service dogs. Besides giving her time, she gives her heart to all those around her. She is truly amazing. There are others who volunteer their time too, as a way to give back to Mary and Operation Freedoms Paws. It's hard to understand how special this organization is until you've been to classes with Operation Freedoms Paws - if you can imagine an extremely supportive environment for those leading difficult lives, where training your dog is a joyful and healing experience, that's Operation Freedoms Paws.
I am both a volunteer and a client of OFP. My service dog is tasked with helping me with agoraphobia, anxiety and depression. I started as a volunteer and I raise puppies for matching with the veterans and people with needs. The compassion and care given to every person who walks through the doors is unsurpassed. Mary Cortani's skills with both people and dogs makes for a unique and powerful combination. This organization is a train the trainer program and has impacted every client the moment they walk through the door!
Review from Guidestar