Joni became interested in dog training in 1999 when she adopted her first dog Buck after he was found abandoned on the highway near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She immediately started working at the largest no-kill shelter in the state as a catch all employee. She was a part time kennel tech meets vet tech meets adoption counselor meets dog trainer. She later moved to Boston and received her her Associates Degree in Animal Care from North Shore community college while still working at a local shelter and training dogs on the side. She landed in Albany after living a year Fort Drum, NY and falling in love with upstate. After many years as the area trainer for a chain pet store she went on her own and started Joni's Doggie Train. She specialized in rehabilitating dogs from shelters who had problems such as reactivity and shyness. Operation At Ease was started after a very frustrating search for a PTSD service dog for her friend Freddy.
Joni continues her education by attending seminars and workshops as often as possible. She also enjoys mentoring new and aspiring trainers as she believes everyone should have the pleasure of going to a job that doesn't feel like work.
After graduating from college, my first professional job was managing an animal shelter. I noticed that almost every dog that came through our doors was there because of a training problem and all of the community dog training opportunities focused on dog sports or showing dogs competitively. There was no help for people who just wanted a family pet. Ten years ago, I started on a journey to learn about training animals to be good pets and to learn specialized training techniques to help people whose pets had behavioral problems. I started a business to address just that population, and provided puppy classes, manners classes and individual consultations for behavior problems such as aggression and reactivity. I am a certified trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and attended many training programs, including Karen Pryor Academy. My goal in working with Operation at Ease is to use my skills as a trainer to help create amazing working teams of handlers and dogs who really bring out the best in each other.
Graduate of Cazenovia College with a degree in Equine Studies. Rode, trained and groomed horses for 30 years. Married for 25 years with 2 children, 2 Dogs and 1 Cat.
My dream is to provide ALL services and needs for ALL of our military families! But for now, I can offer my heart to them all. Currently my dog Zeus is Therapy Certified and visits schools to greet elementary aged children and special needs children. We also visit colleges during exam time!
Sonya Ward was born and raised in Germany and since 2006 has lived in Niskayuna with her family and dog Lucky. The mother of two has a lifelong love of animals.
Sonya and Joni met through their daughters class room activities and she took Lucky to Joni’s puppy training class. Through their friendship Sonya became involved in fostering dogs for Operation at Ease and in dog training. Sonya feels very strongly about helping those in need – at any time and through everyday life - and the bravery of veterans. To combine this with her passion for animals is a dream come true.
Shelley M. Dame
Graduated Hudson Valley Community College for business administration and went on to receive her paralegal degree from National Paralegal Studies Program. She is currently employed by her full service real estate firm for the past 22 years. She has been interested in dog training for over a year and trained her own dog to be a therapy dog. She has a lifelong love for dogs and other animals. She is passionate about saving dogs and providing support to Veterans in need. She is currently an active volunteer at Operations at Ease and is very excited to be a public access trainer.