To the PSD Community,
I know we are all probably feeling some “pandemic fatigue,” but in my first update on our new blog, I want to share how Covid-19 has affected the organization and share some positives that have come from these difficult times.
Like most people, we assumed that this pandemic would last a few weeks or months and then pass us by—we delayed advanced training and graduation, set up a zoom account for the organization, and got sort of used to wearing masks. But, as time and Covid went on, we realized that we could not simply delay, we had to make changes to the way we ran the organization to continue our work through the pandemic.
The first step was to develop a new system for working with our inmate-trainers. As a population vulnerable to outbreaks, the Lowell Correctional Facility did an excellent job keeping everyone, including our dogs in training, safe. For the months we could not enter the facility, we worked with staff and our dedicated team on inmate-trainers to keep updated on the dogs’ training and to help where we could. This involved lots of notes, reports, and long phone calls in the officer’s room, but we managed to keep all of the dogs on track with their training. Many of our volunteers thoughtfully donated bars of soap to the entire workcamp. Now, I can report, that I am allowed into the facility after being tested and our hands-on training has resumed—masked and at a safe distance.
For advanced training and graduation, we also had to develop a new playbook. Instead of bringing in five or six veterans and their families for advanced training, we divided the graduating class into much smaller pairs and made dramatic changes to our training schedule. We moved as much of the training outside as possible and added masks and hand sanitizer to our welcome kit. As many of you already know, graduation also changed. We held two very limited graduations instead of one big celebration.
It is hard to find a silver lining in this mess, but the pandemic forced us to consider new ways of doing things and I know that we will not return to the “old normal.” The training we were able to offer our veterans included many elements that worked better than our old system. Our inmate-trainers learned to work more independently and developed as a team. Of course, we look forward to the next time we can graduate our veteran and dog teams with the full support of our community, but until then, I can honestly report that Patriot Service Dogs has not missed a beat. New things, like this long-discussed blog, are launching, and we see a bright future on the horizon.
Until the page is turned on this pandemic, please stay safe and thank you for your support in these difficult times.
Julie Sanderson, CEO