PRESIDENT & CEO
LETTER FROM BRYAN WILLIAMS
Most people say that we are living in unprecedented times. In fact, I have heard this word used many, many times in the last six months. And in many ways, we are. COVID-19 has been devastating to so many people and businesses, nonprofits included.
Luckily, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we had already started the move to a cloud-based strategy where staff could access the tools they need to do their job remotely. Many of our staff had taken advantage of this shift and were working one or two days a week from home. When the pandemic hit, we were able to shift those people to full time remote work.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this pandemic - and from the recent wildfires that devastated local communities in the Rogue Valley - is that I made the right decision to become DBL’s CEO. From the support of our incredibly generous donors, the leadership and steadiness of the Board of Directors, the incredibly passionate staff willing to do whatever it takes, and a group of volunteers eager to return to campus. This truly is a family, and I am a proud member.
Basil was placed as a Hearing Assistance Dog with Debbie in Tennessee. Basil was donated to DBL as a puppy from Guide Dogs for the Blind and was raised by Daniela, one of our local puppy raisers in Southern Oregon.
“Basil has changed Debbie’s life, and her parents’ lives as well!”
Boots was placed as a Hearing Assistance Dog in Arizona. Boots is working the door knock, doorbell, smoke alarm, oven timer, and name call.
In July, Guiana was placed as a Hearing Assistance Dog with Tracee in Idaho. Tracee said that she was excited to feel more confident and comfortable, both in her own home and out in public with Guiana by her side.
Hearing Assistance Dog Arla was placed with Mason in Washington State last year. “She’s a hard-working pup who is constantly getting praised for her excellent behavior in public, often going unnoticed until we get up to leave. Her companionship has been lifechanging.”
Maria and Hearing Assistance Dog Noodle have been a team for 2.5 years in South Carolina. Maria is a high school teacher. “Now that we’re working from home, we have changed things up quite a bit.
Hearing Assistance Dog Ollie was placed with Joan in Michigan in 2005. He is semi-retired, and although he has slowed down some and doesn’t go to as many places, he still works and alerts her to sounds.
Suzanne and Hidalgo
I was accustomed to a certain way of organizing my life, and I struggled to reorganize things around having a service dog. It was all so new, and so different. But with time, I began to notice amazing things: how well-behaved Hidalgo was despite my own nervousness; how intent he was in his focus on me, even when I felt scattered; and how consistently he performed his sound work.
Then I began to notice how I felt with Hidalgo around: more relaxed about living on my own, more confident out in public, more assured at work, and less self-conscious about my significant hearing loss.
COVID-19 has been our latest challenge, and we both miss being able to go to a variety of places, and interacting with people at work. But we’re also now a strong team, best friends, and adventure buddies.
Henry and Trooper
Do something nice for other people. Think about someone besides yourself. That, many psychologists say, is a good way to deal with the isolation of a pandemic lockdown in your home. Trooper has helped a lot with that, because he is extremely sociable, a furry, tail-wagging glad-handed who never met a human he didn’t like.
Before COVID-19 came into our lives, Trooper was the unofficial therapy animal of our retirement community, bringing cuddly joy into the lives of residents unable to have dogs of their own. But as coronavirus spread across the country, vets told us to avoid letting our dogs encounter other people. So, I kept Trooper away from neighbors while passing them in the halls and outside on the sidewalk. Needless to say, he missed them and they him.
Steve and Pepe
COVID-19, the virus behind the coronavirus pandemic, has been a life changing event for nearly everyone. For some like myself and my Hearing Assistance Dog Pepe, that change has been profound.
By early March we were isolated, sheltering in place with me recovering from surgery. Pepe asleep most of the time as his hearing duties were seldom needed. An occasional delivery person will knock on the window giving Pepe an opportunity to alert me to someone’s presence. The phone seldom rings with a text message. We would go on short walks a few times each day. We began extending our walks a couple of months ago to help build my strength back to normal after the pulmonary embolism surgery. Those walks soon became preparation for taking day hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, a national hiking trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. Several of the trail heads are within a few miles of my home.
Pepe not only assists me with my hearing loss; he is my constant companion. I may live alone, however I am not lonely. Far from it! The best part for me and Pepe is that we are once again “traveling”, so to speak. While sheltering in place, we get out to exercise and see new things almost every day, all while being able to avoid contact with others.
DBL COVID-19 Update
As you can imagine, our work has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. In March, the administrative and program staff were sent home to work remotely. Dogs were fostered within trainers’ homes as much as capacity allowed, and client support became virtual through updated technology. Volunteers were asked to pause their traditional support until the pandemic was under control, and our Governor’s shelter-in place orders were lifted. Several staff, trainers and kennel techs were needed on campus full-time, living in the apartment settings which have been for training purposes only, to support the needs of dogs onsite. Dog placements and in-person follow-up visits were paused. Mission critical work turned to housing and consistent management of dogs to ensure the work towards their future placements would not be hindered.
Still, during these unprecedented times and changing processes to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, clients, and dogs, we have experienced record-setting numbers of applicants on waiting lists. People need our services more than ever. Isolation from family, closures of daycare and schools and the loss of employment, or even closures of a family business have propelled the need for the vital support that Assistance Dogs provide.
We care about you, your families, and our life-changing dogs. Thanks to your continued support, we remain fiscally strong. There is nothing more powerful and resilient than you – our wonderful DBL community – and we want to thank you for showing your love for our mission and being a part of DBL.
Cynthia Perlman Puppy Sensory Park
We’re excited to announce the upcoming opening of The Cynthia Perlman Puppy Sensory Park on our Southern Oregon campus! This unique park was designed to provide various surfaces for our puppies to explore and experience, including rock, bark, sand and grass pathways, and a water feature.
The Cynthia Perlman Puppy Sensory Park gives us a unique opportunity to show our puppies at an early age what they will encounter on their journey to becoming future Assistance Dogs,” explained Puppy Program Coordinator, Hannah Crane. “It’s so important that we provide the tools necessary for our puppies and Puppy Raisers to succeed, and this Puppy Sensory Park is a big part to accomplish that.
DBL Says Goodbye to Longtime Board Members
“Some of my fondest memories as a DBL board member were meeting and watching the DBL staff do such remarkable work with the pups and collaborating with such a talented and diverse group of people who filled other board positions."
“My time on the board has been very satisfying and exciting. We now provide dogs for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, children on the autism spectrum, and facility dogs to different entities."
DBL’s Young Professionals Board is Launched in Puget Sound, WA
In July, the DBL Young Professionals Board was launched, securing its first four members in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. In July, Corey Wise (chair), Meghan Heims (vice chair), and Claire Dickinson (treasurer) accepted officer positions within YPB – Puget Sound. And in August, Anthony Dickson joined them as YPB – Puget Sound secretary.
“In following our strategic plan in further establishing our regional and national reach, the Young Professionals Board (Puget Sound) will play a critical role in assisting DBL with its community outreach and engagement, further extending our reach into the Pacific Northwest”, stated David Hollingsworth.
SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS AT DBL
At Dogs for Better Lives, we’re not just committed to our mission of professionally training and placing Assistance Dogs with people throughout the U.S., we recognize our greater responsibility to care for our community and our planet. We do this through our commitment to the planet, our social responsibility, and our steady operational performance.
“As a non-profit, this is especially important because every dollar we receive comes from generous and caring donors…”
– Mike Poremba, Apprentice Dog Trainer & Green Team Member
Dogs for Better Lives is building a lasting and supportive social environment for our employees, suppliers and communities. We are creating positive changes in our workforce and in the local communities where we work and do business.
Guided By Our Values
We manage our organization in a manner that coincides with our values. We address opportunities and risks, considering the long-term interests of our employees, dogs, clients, volunteers, donors, suppliers, and communities we serve.
We care for our dogs by keeping their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing at the forefront of every decision. We care for clients by providing our services with kindness, compassion, and patience. We care for donors by being responsible stewards of donor dollars through mindful and conscientious use of company time and money. And beginning this year, 100 percent of all donations support programmatic services, thanks to the generosity of our Guardian Society members.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR DBL
One of Dogs for Better Lives’ largest projects in recent years is the recently launched 306-panel, 97.9 kW solar array on the northern end of our Central Point campus.
“This solar array project is not only a win for the environment but for the DBL community, too. By generating our own electricity, we’ll save on energy costs — and that means we can dedicate more of our budget to our core mission of rescuing, breeding, and placing more Assistance Dogs nationally, ultimately bettering others’ lives,”
- President & CEO, Bryan Williams.
North American Breeding Cooperative
ABC is a cooperative breeding program run by Bob and Marina Phillips that shares breeding stock with other Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited schools to improve dog’s genetics and health which then leads to higher quality service dogs.
Puppy raisers in our Puget Sound satellite region have welcomed male lab puppies Guinness and Gunther, and female lab golden cross Poppy, into
their homes through ABC from Joys of Living Assistance Dogs and Summit Assistance Dogs. We also have female lab puppy, Joy, being raised in our Fresno satellite region thanks to ABC.
Seattle / Puget Sound
The old adage, “all good things take time,” proves itself to be true again. It has now been more than a year since Dogs for Better Lives launched our Seattle Area Field Office. We started the summer of 2019 off with multiple events in hopes of getting DBL’s name out there and finding committed volunteers interested in puppy raising. We didn’t have much luck. Until all at once we did!
By spring of 2020 we had our first puppies and puppy raisers on the ground in Seattle and the surrounding area. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we had to get creative with our training
All this hard work and creativity is paying off as all the puppies are doing very well. As of August 2020, our Seattle Area field office has 6 puppy raisers: three with puppies from Assistance Dogs International’s ABC Breeding Co-op, one from a private breeder, and two from DBL’s E litter.
FOSTER PUPPY PROGRAM
Maintaining the Mission
Dogs for Better Lives has welcomed our third purpose-bred litter into the world: Litter E! This was a long-awaited and a very exciting moment for us. We watched Pepper grow from a very smart and sweet puppy, who then blossomed into a wonderful and attentive mother.
Now more than ever, it is so very important to continue to breed responsibly so that we may continue to serve our clients nationwide. While we will always stay true to our roots and continue to search for dogs in shelters, maintaining a small breeding program is vital to helping more people who need Assistance Dogs.
I could not ask for a better place to work – and feel extremely grateful to be a part of DBL. My passion for dogs, among other animals, and my supportive nature makes it easy to come to work every day. In fact, I get excited every morning knowing that I get one more day to contribute in changing someone’s life.
Dogs for Better Lives is by far the most rewarding contribution I have been honored to make as my connection to animals is unparalleled. I am honored to lend my life skills to assist in DBL’s mission.
A Deaf Deer in the Headlights
My partner Wellie, my Hearing Assistance Dog, is currently saving my soul, my sanity, and then some.
Wellie has made me step out of my comfort zone, to desire new experiences and adventures. I now live, and I have grown. That is what I have been experiencing since the day we were partnered, and thanks to her I have been living such an openly aware, exciting, and care-free life for the past five years.
Now enter the COVID-19 pandemic: Our new normal is social distancing, required masks, and no touching your face to live, thrive, and to stay safe.
I can only describe my experience as feeling like a deer...a Deaf deer in the headlights.