Working at K9s – Way More Than What Meets the Eye

Written by: 
Brianna Ehrhart

When one of our staff tells someone he/she works at K9s For Warriors, the usual follow-up question is,

“So, you train the dogs?” 

Well, “No ...” is the answer for about 90% of our staff. 

There are several departments that churn and burn to sustain the operation that is the whole of K9s For Warriors.  Besides the obvious K9s Operations, we have other vital departments: Warrior Relations, Development, Public Relations, etc.  All are equally important, working in tandem to make K9s what it is.

So, what exactly does the rest of the staff do?

Since K9s Operations get the most curiosity, we’ll start there:

K9s Operations comprise the kennels, dog intake program, and puppy program.

  • Our two state-of-the art kennels are where our service dogs in training live. Each canine is assigned to a specific dog trainer for 3-6 months. The trainers teach the dogs everything they need to know to become a service dog. Dogs are cared for, bathed and fed by our vet tech, kennel staff, and adoring volunteers. 
  • Dog intake staff select from shelters, and accept owner-surrenders and dog donations. They’re the ones who make the call on a dog’s eligibility for the program, asking questions on behavior, temperament and health before admitting a dog for training or fostering. They regularly make trips to local shelters, even driving to Georgia and other states to pick up program eligible rescues. Check out the awesome fleet vehicles they travel in.
  • Puppy program staff accept puppy donations and find homes for the pups until they’re ready to train in the kennel. Puppies can’t enter the kennels until one year of age, so we rely on the homes of superstar volunteer puppy raisers and fosters to keep them until then. We always need more of these volunteers! Sometimes we have to turn away puppies because there’s no available home. That can be heartbreaking. (Click here if you can help.)


Warrior Relations comprises the entire warrior program, from application to graduation.

  • This team is like our customer service representatives. It has the most interaction with the warriors, spending a great deal of time speaking with and messaging applicants and class members. Warrior Relations Specialists guide applicants through a ton of paperwork, handle questions and concerns before and during training, and assist warriors with travel to and from our campus. They’re often the first people warriors speak with, and the first to get Facebook friend requests ;-).
  • Warrior Trainers manage all training of the warriors and their new canine battle buddies for the 21-day program. Each day involves trips out to public places, classroom training, and good old peer advice. Warrior Trainers – who once were in the very same shoes as the trainees – know exactly how to help the new warrior-dog teams bond. Warrior Trainers get to see the growth of the class members more than anyone else, from being frustrated, skeptical new arrivals, to finally learning to trust again and shedding tears before they leave.


Development comprises diverse fundraising efforts.

  • We’re a nonprofit, so we can’t function without donations. At all. Development puts sweat and tears (no blood, thankfully) into tons of outreach tactics to raise funds and keep us going: grant writing, email, community events, corporate partnerships, individual donor relationships, sponsorships, and more. Without fundraising, we can’t save lives. Period.


Education comprises public relations and marketing.

  • As a nonprofit, we don’t pay for advertising. The Education department zealously writes and designs daily to make the most of every available resource to get K9s in the public eye. That means managing social media, website design, media relations (TV, internet, print, etc.), visual content creation, supporting Development, and more. Everything you’ve ever seen about K9s, and most of what you’ve heard, has come from this department.


Legal

  • Three of our staff members have legal backgrounds. They use that expertise to support the organization and warriors who encounter opposition to service dogs by those unfamiliar or noncompliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Grounds Maintenance & Housekeeping

  • We’re so fortunate for our unique, beautiful facility in Ponte Vedra, FL. The skills of our two groundskeepers and housekeeper preserve and improve it every day, from planting flowers, to construction, to ensuring the warrior spaces feel like a home away from home.


Accounting

  • Like the other behind-the-scenes departments, accounting stays busy nonstop, handling all financial matters. A huge part of its role is to report on cost breakdowns of our program. This provides transparency to donors, grantors and nonprofit associations, delivering confidence that their dollars are justly stewarded. We give people proof they can trust us; in turn, they give us their support.


We also have a “House Mom” and “House Dads” who come in to lend an ear to the warriors, and give them another caring person to rely on while in training. 

Altogether, every staff member works extremely hard to make our program the best possible experience for our warriors and dogs. Dog training is just one of the heavy, necessary roles in achieving the mission.  It’s a veritable team effort to give each veteran and canine who comes through our program a new “leash” on life. Although not all staff might get up close and personal with the canines, you can bet they’re all up close and personal with the mission.

 

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