A Brigadoon Service Dogs Message from the Executive Director Denise CoStanten (2013)
On August 4, 2013, Brigadoon Service Dogs celebrated its ninth year in operation! It is amazing just how quickly time passes when you are as busy as we have been here at Brigadoon.
I took a few moments to remember back through the years about all that we have been able to accomplish since our very humble beginnings. I thought about how by the end of 2012 we had graduated 40 service dog teams and about how we have been able to spread the word about the work of service dogs and the important role that they can play in assisting people with a wide variety of disabilities.
The work is long and hard and it doesn’t stop – I am up by 6:30 am to do the morning feeding and potty break, throughout the day the dogs are training and exercised, the last potty break each night at 10:00 pm. Thankfully, I have a part-time paid staff that gives me a break 5 evenings a week.
We squeeze each penny until it cries and accomplish miracles with two paid staff and 95% volunteers. But this job comes with rewards that you cannot imagine when you see our client service teams at work! We have seen a new sense of independence, a “can do” attitude, a reduction in medications that clients have been taking for years and families able to do things that they had only dreamed of being able to do. We are not just providing loyal companions, but professionally-trained dogs capable of performing between 60 and 100 cues and having been carefully matched to the needs of their human companions in keeping with the requirements of the Assistance Dogs International and the American Disabilities Act.
Each year we scrimp, we save, we find volunteers and we go in search of funds from all of the usual places and sometimes a few of the not so likely ones! For the first time in nine years of operation, during 2012 we tracked the total number of volunteer hours that our volunteers, family, friends, sponsors, neighbors, and community members contributed to help our organization. We came up with an astonishing 20,283 volunteer hours of men, women, and children who have graciously and without complaint offered their talents and skills to make it possible for us to deliver professionally trained service dogs to disabled community members in need of a helping paw.
What does this number mean? It means that in addition to the two employees that we are budgeted for, we had the equivalent of 10.14 additional full-time individuals working on our behalf, without a paycheck, just for the value of helping our important cause! Our volunteers make all the difference in the world to us!
My heartfelt appreciation goes out to those that step up to the plate each day, and share my vision of having trained dogs offer the assistance that disabled individuals need, to help them live more independent lives with the opportunity to get out in the world.
Brigadoon had a particularly productive year in 2012. It was a year of growth and expansion and it stretched us to the limits. As you know, with growth and expansion come many changes. The greatest of these was building upon our great accomplishment of achieving Assistance Dogs International (ADI) full credential status at the end of April 2012. This work represents over a year’s effort in planning, documenting, and putting the foundation in place for our programs.
In particularly rough economic times, it becomes challenging to acquire the funds that we need to sustain our operation. Our board of directors and staff have given great thought to this issue and are looking into new ways to assure a steady flow of income. We want you to know how important your support has been over the years – and we want to ask that you please try to find the funds to continue your generous support of our programs. One of the best ways for you to help is with a monthly gift over the course of the year. This assures that we have funds coming in throughout the year, even during times that are lean. This means that the dogs have food, medical care, and training to learn all of the skills that they need to know.
We cannot do what we do at Brigadoon without your continued help, both in monetary and in volunteer support. Please help us to provide more of these fabulous canines that give people with disabilities hope, independence, and unconditional love 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Together, we change lives one dog at a time.