Operation Freedom Paws


Operation Freedom Paws empowers veterans and others with disabilities to live a quality life by teaching them to train their own dogs, and certifying them as service dog teams. The dogs, usually from rescue organizations or shelters are carefully evaluated. Each is then matched to a specific client’s physical and psychological needs. There is no charge – all we ask is a commitment to complete the 48-week training program

"We are not traditional in any sense of the word. We treat each client/dog team as a unique entity because each is completely different--- different injuries, personalities, temperaments, etc. As such, we are incredibly honored when a long established organization such as the Georges and Germaine Fusenot Charity Foundation recognizes and supports the work we are doing on an ongoing basis."

Mary Cortani, Founder and Executive Director

Operation Freedom Paws

Operation Freedom Paws

Success Story

U.S. Navy veteran Dave was injured in an explosion aboard his ship. The experience left him with lasting physical injuries as well as PTS. He spent years unsuccessfully battling pain and multiple health issues. Dave loves music‐‐‐‐especially live performances. It had been many years since he'd been able to brave the crowds and attend a concert.

Dave submitted his service dog application to OFP in 2014, a short six-months later he was brought in for the initial interview. As fate would have it, he was matched that day with Laddie, a 7‐month old Border Collie who had been picked up as a stray by animal control. Like most of our veteran service dog applicants, Dave wanted a "tough dog"‐‐‐‐he was not at all prepared for Laddie’s cuteness or energy, and it took a couple of weeks of classes before he accepted that Laddie was the perfect dog for him.

Bonding/Training activities:

At the end of every training session, clients and their companions do what we call "puppy yoga". It's a grounding and mindfulness exercise using breathing and sensory awareness techniques, with the dogs as a focal point. It's an opportunity for bonding with the dogs as they get stroked, massaged, cuddled and touched. Dave and Laddie are stars when it comes to “puppy yoga”!

After Dave and Laddie had spent a few months settling in together and getting comfortable out in public, Dave decided it was time to put their training to the test. He bought tickets for an outdoor performance at Shoreline Amphitheater and the activity was a success. Since then, the duo has attended numerous rock concerts, visited museums and traveled extensively.

Just over a year of being matched, Dave and Laddie completed the formal training. Graduates are encouraged to continue coming to classes on a regular basis, because training never ends. Those who show the interest and aptitude are recruited to assist in training sessions with other clients. Recently, Dave was named OFP’s Head Mentor‐ Trainer. He and Laddie have joined OFP's founder Mary Cortani for frequent presentations to service organizations, companies, and other groups.

When asked what Laddie does for him, Dave’s response is, “What DOESN’T he do for me?”