Our director Joni Bonilla created OAE after a call with a 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! Veteran in need of a service dog+lovely dog sitting in a shelter=2 lives forever changed. 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.
|Location||Schenectady, New York|