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The Story Behind the Organization - A Brigadoon Service Dogs Article by Denise Costanten (2008)

Hello, my name is Denise Costanten. I founded Brigadoon Service Dog Programs in August of 2004. I first thought of training dogs to help people with disabilities back in 1994 after attending a six week intensive training program to become a professional dog trainer. Ten years would pass before the time was right for me to pursue this endeavor. This time gave me the experience of working with hundreds of people helping them to train their dogs to have good manners; I also raised several litters of collie pups; I attended every dog behavior seminar I could go to and read every book I could get my hands on.

After attending another six week study program at The Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa, CA; I received my accreditation to train assistance dogs. When I returned home I applied for and received 501 C 3 corporation non-profit status. Next, I closed the doors to my pet dog training business and opened Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs; a facility to train assistance/service dogs to help people with disabilities. But the question was who did I want to serve and how large of an organization did I want this to become? After 18 months of trial and error, this is what became very clear to me.

There was a need to be filled that was not being met by other service dog agencies; I wanted to keep it small and personal; I wanted to build a lasting relationship with all the people who received a dog from us; I wanted to help children of all ages and the at-risk teens in high school by engaging them to learn about people with disabilities and how a well-trained a service dog could change their lives; I wanted to help the people who did not qualify for a dog by other agencies guidelines. I wanted to help children with autism; to help people who are hearing and/or sight impaired, and those who had seizures. The bottom was if we could train the dog to fill a need for someone with a disability, we would.

Our accomplishments: In four short years we have seven working dog/client teams, established a youth program in the local high school for at-risk teens; we have opened our doors to several youth groups such as a camp for autistic children, the parks and recreation youth camp, girl scouts and home schooled kids. We participate in helping high school seniors with their culminating projects. We’ve trained dogs for children with seizures, young adults with hearing impairments, visual impairment, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis etc.

Although I have had to wear many different hats while building Brigadoon, knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities by giving them a dog to provide years of emotional support and physical assistance resulting in better health, independence and an enhanced life makes it all worthwhile (please read “What People are Saying” for testimonials).

I want to thank all of those who have made our first four years possible. Without the help of our fabulous volunteers and the financial support of individuals and businesses in our community, we would not be able to keep our mission moving forward (a list of our donors and sponsors will appear in our next newsletter). We truly want to “offer a helping paw” to as many folks as we can. Thanks to all of you for believing in Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs! If you would like to know more about Brigadoon, visit our website:, or call for an onsite tour and meet our clever canines.

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