I have been on the outside looking in for about 10 years now, watching it grow, get better and amaze me. This organization knows what it is doing and wants to do, to help the world when a National Disaster strikes. Not only do they rescue shelter dogs that no one wanted and turn them into life saving rescuers. If they are not right for the program, they find those dogs homes, never to be returned to a shelter.
The more teams trained, the more lives saved.
I first met Wima Melville, the founder of this Foundation, in 1996. I have followed the Search Dogs since then, and am lucky enough to finally be retired and able to be a volunteer for them. I see firsthand the dedication of all those involved in Search Dogs. Every donor is very much appreciated, no matter what amount is being donated. These Search Dogs provide such a valuable service anytime there is a major disaster. I have watched a little of their training, and these dogs are so well trained and ready to face any disaster they are sent to. This is a very worthwhile non-profit organization.
As a volunteer for SDF, as well as a donor, I can attest to the fact that your donations actually go to the cause! They have a very small paid staff and the rest is volunteer based. Every donation, large and small, is acknowledged with a letter with a handwritten note. I write many of these notes so this is first hand knowledge. They get no governmental support; strictly donor supported. They rescue the dogs, train them, train the handlers and pair them together at no cost to the fire departments. All dogs rescued will go to a family if they don't complete training. They are never returned to a shelter once they are rescued.
One of my facorite charities!! Dogs are recruited from Rescues and strays, or abandoned animals. They are then trained for 9 months to the speciality of Search & Rescue.. If they pass the rigorous training program, then are then paired with a Firefighter, and donated to his/ her fire department! This is taking a discarded dog ( who would probably be euthanized), and giving them a full and rewarding life!! This is all funded with private donations....how much better could it be???
Review from Guidestar
I have written a Review earlier this year, but I'm so impressed with NDSDF that I sponsored a dog this year. My Labrador boy, "Clancy", will be graduating day after tomorrow, and will be paired with his new Firefighter/Handler, and donated to their Fire Department! I am so excited for Clancy and his new career!!
NDSDF's new training facility continues to make BIG progress due to generous donors, volunteers, and collaboration with other Organizations. I am delighted to be one of their donors!
When another disaster strikes where search dog units are deployed, I'll be watching the TV for Clancy climbing over the rubble!
I just can't say enough expressing how amazing SDF is! I first heard about SDF after 911 and have followed their work since. I was so excited that their office is in Ojai was able to visit a few times. Working with SDF became my "dream job" and goal . I started out going to all their special events and got to know Wilma, she is a incredible lady and knows how to make her dreams come true. My life changed forever when I found out that The National Training Center was going to be built not only here in Santa Paula but right across the road from where I live !! I was so excited and it has been so incredible watching NTC being built. 2 years ago our family adopted Calvin a black lab who just wasn't thrilled about a rubble pile and looking for a lifetime care home. SDF has always kept in touch and even sent out trainer Lyz Gregory to work with me and Calvin. I needed a lot more training than Calvin did! Well that did it, after seeing Lyz work with Calvin I was so impressed that I was determined to volunteer as often as I could. Lyz invited me to NTC , everyone was so friendly and really cared about the dogs . I saw my "dream job" !
For the last year I have volunteered once or twice a week to help out where I can. I have learned so much just being around Sonja and Lyz. They are the best! I have also taken many ,many photos of the dogs and I am so pleased to see some of the photos in SDF publications and Facebook . Everyone , trainers, office staff and fellow volunteers always make me feel like family and appreciated. They are the most professional and caring people I know. Thanks SDF for helping me live my dream !
Review from Guidestar
I was first told about SDF through my College. They said the Search Dog Foundation occasionally needed volunteer photographers and since I just graduated and love dogs I decided to try it out. Honestly I had no idea who they were and what they were about until I went to my first volunteer event. It was great fun but also very structured and informative. The staff was all very friendly and seeing the dogs in action was amazing. I have now photographed several events for them. They also asked me to join their team in Ojai and now I'm officially part of the SDF staff. I've gotten to know all of them and they are all very nice and hard workers. I have also been to pairings, when the dogs get paired with their new handlers, and that is one of the best things to see. I've interacted with several candidate dogs and they are all high energy, very barky but also very friendly and some of the sweetest dogs out there. I've also met the trainers who are very amazing. And I have met some of the people behind the scenes and of course Wilma the founder, who is something else. Very funny, lively and sweet. She also knows what she wants and how to get it. The Search Dog Foundation is truly an amazing organization.
I worked off and on volunteering with SDF, taking a break when I had school. Every time I came in they were ready for me with clear instructions and materials organised, and waiting for my help. I always felt appreciated and a part of the team even though my tasks were so minimal. On several occasions I had to cancel or was late for my volunteer time and I was never met with any disappointment, only understanding and appreciation for whatever time I could give. Everyone in the office is friendly and welcoming. I learned a lot about the role of the SDF and was surprised at the amount of personal care that is given to each individual involved in the program.
Review from Guidestar
Living in Ojai I've always seen SDF when driving by but never knew what or how it was run. Then through a school post I saw they needed volunteers for the summer, so here was my chance! They do more than anyone can ever imagine, with their very amazing and dedicated staff just a handful of people run everything. We all see what the dogs are capable of when they are out searching for the people, but what goes into that to get them ready is absolutely amazing! I have to say I am very lucky to have been able to come in and volunteer with them and with the help of them I know what I want to do in my life. Thanks SDF!
When I was paired with Roxy 1 year ago, I never in a million years thought I'd be as happy as I am to get to work with her every day. Roxy was a stray in the Sacramento area, when someone found her and took her in, only to find that she had too much energy to be a normal pet. She was surrendered to a shelter, and as she was in line to be "put down", one of the great recruiters at the NDSDF found her to be a great fit as a search dog. She was taken to Gilroy, trained, and I was lucky enough to be paired with her. 10 months later, and with countless hours of training with the NDSDF staff and with other handlers in the Los Angeles area, we passed our certification test, so we can be ready to respond to any disaster.
The NDSDF is an incredible organization, that takes rescues formally discarded canines and trains them rescue men, women and children during these incredible disasters we only see on TV. Without the staff and volunteers at the NDSDF, Roxy would be wondering the streets of Sacramento, holed up in someones back yard, or worse yet, be put to sleep like the many other unclaimed pets in the country.
Review from Guidestar
I first became acquainted with NSDF at an event in CA, where I got to meet a couple of handlers and dogs. I was so impressed by the organization that I followed it for years, subscribed to the newsletter, and watched it grow from afar, into a the wonderful, thriving organization it is today. Recently, I've become more engaged, by writing and volunteering and helping where I can, and can't express enough how exciting and fulfilling it is to be part of such a wonderful group of people doing such amazing things. When speaking with founder, Wilma Melville, her passion for NSDF is just so palpable. Her energy and the vision she has for the continued growth of the organization so that it can broaden its reach ever further, helping out more and more people at every possible opportunity, is infectious. I am continually proud and grateful to be a part in even a small way, of NSDF.
Review from Guidestar