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What we do...

OAE works with several different shelters and rescues throughout the United States pairing unwanted dogs with disabled veterans at no cost. All dogs are fully vetted prior to placement at our cost. We then provide a free guided training program for the purposes of PTSD and light mobility service dogs. Veterans attend a small group class with their dogs once a week for four months and learn the skills needed to pass the Canine Good Citizen and the Canine Good Citizen Urban (obedience titles offered through the American Kennel Club). We also work on task training to the veterans specific needs such as, buffering in a crowd and offering brace support to help with standing, to name a few. After the completion of class our teams are matched with a public access trainer and we spend the next four to six weeks working on real life situations. We take our classroom training and apply it to real life situations in shopping malls, schools and restaurants. At the completion of this training the person/dog team is tested for The Public Access test. After passing the Public Access test they are legally allowed to bring their dog anywhere they go in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Our founder Joni Bonilla created OAE...

after a call with her friend Freddy whose dog had suddenly died. Now back home after twenty years of Army infantry service, many overseas tours and a diagnosis of PTSD, the loss of his pet dog was devastating. This dog would sit by his side when the kids were at school and his wife was at work. She nudged his hand when he would lie in a dark room, reminding him that he was not alone – she was right there. She had given him a reason to get out of the house on days he didn’t want to. One dog helped one person get up, get moving and establish a routine for his day that he otherwise might not have had. Joni made many phone calls to many groups to help him replace his dog. With so many veterans in need and so many dogs euthanized daily simply because they need a home, the thought was, this will be easy! But she was met only with waiting lists years long or programs who were so backed up that they were unable to take anymore applicants. 

Frustrated, Joni spent weeks on a soap box to anyone who would listen about how we can do better for our veterans, they deserve better, this is a no brainer! After spending almost 17 years working in shelters, with rescues and as a professional dog trainer Joni decided to just do it herself. She sent a text message to her friend, and fellow dog enthusiast, Bellanca Fletcher saying, “Can we start a rescue group where we take nice dogs from shelters, pair them with veterans and train them to be PTSD service dogs?” Bellanca replied, “Not today” Two hours later, Bellanca called Joni and Operation at Ease was born.