Ensuring continuing care for our clients
When clients with disabilities graduate from FSD, they receive not only a service dog, but also a lifetime of support from our talented staff. That support includes ongoing training, annual recertification for their service dog, advocacy efforts, and the ability to receive a successor dog from FSD at no charge when their original dog retires.
Because of the important nature of this program, FSD brought on a full-time employee earlier this year to help our teams learn new skills and ensure that they continue to function smoothly for the working life of the service dog. Client & Volunteer Trainer Brenna Palen combines years of dog training expertise with a lifelong love of animals to provide ongoing training and support to more than 170 active FSD clients. She typically assists five to 10 clients a month, either in person or via Skype, depending on their location. Brenna teaches their dogs new tasks that become necessary, such as when a client has increasing weakness on one side of their body that necessitates their dog learning to operate on the opposite side. She also helps clients correct undesirable behaviors that their dog has developed, such as counter surfing or prey drive.
In her role as FSD’s volunteer trainer, Brenna teaches dog walking, dog body language, and dog handling classes for volunteers, and performs walking assessments to ensure that volunteers are following FSD protocol. She also takes volunteers to the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility each week to give the FSD puppies being trained there socialization outings at nearby stores and restaurants.
In addition to training clients and volunteers, Brenna lends a hand with advanced outings and therapy tests, and making road trips to pick up service dog candidates in other states.
Say Brenna, “I have a calling for helping dogs and people. I love facilitating the bond between teams and consider myself a therapist, because there is usually a lack of communication on both sides of the problem that needs to be addressed. I love watching dogs learn and seeing teams grow stronger.”