We had the good fortune of connecting with Cathy Kowalski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cathy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I was working for a service dog organization that trained rescue dogs and then paired them with Veterans and civilians with a disability, however they had a 2 to 5 year wait list. I realized that many individuals with a disability already had a great dog that could possibly be trained to become their service dog, but they were on a wait list for another dog. With 22 Veterans committing suicide per day, they didn’t have years to wait for something that might change their life. I knew how to train the dogs, I knew how to interview prospective clients, so it seemed like a good way to make a difference. In addition, by training in the client’s home or environment, the clients would be comfortable. Another plus – the dog is already bonded to the client. Clients needing a dog are assisted by us to find a dog. The dog is able to live with the client immediately in a home and not a kennel environment like most of the service dog organizations – it seemed like a win win!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have had a very varied professional career from being a police dispatcher, singer, school secretary, executive secretary to finally finding my passion in service dog training. I volunteered at a service dog organization and learned how to train dogs for a year before I was offered a position as a service dog trainer. In my years at that organization I trained service dogs, worked with therapy dog clients and created a program to train Veterans who would receive a dog from the organization to train that dog in my classes while incorporating life skills. It takes dedication, commitment and perseverance to train dogs – patience is the key. As humans, we want instant results and we give up easily – that doesn’t work when you are training dogs. Deciding to create a nonprofit was a big step – I had no experience in starting a business but lots of ideas on how to make it work. At times it was overwhelming figuring out how to file the paperwork with the federal government, how to find grants (still learning), how to organize the workload – many weeks I worked well over 60 hours and still do. Our first two years were completely volunteer, it wasn’t till our third year that we were able to pay trainers for training time. Even now we are usually 3 months from going back to volunteering, hoping for more support from donations. Starting a nonprofit is not for the feint of heart! I believe in my heart we are here to help others and that mantra is what keeps us going, giving hope where there was no hope.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would make sure they went to Red Rocks during the day to see the beauty of the area. Hiking in Colorado is always a great escape and you never run out of new adventures. I would take them horseback riding at Bear Creek Park and then take a break with a kayak rental around the lake. A nice walk around Washington Park brightens up any afternoon and I would spend the evening at Olive Garden enjoying the best, crispest salad in town, great Italian food and an Italian marguarita. On Saturday night we would visit the Grizzley Rose for some country dancing and great music. On Sunday we would take a drive to the mountains to one of the lovely small towns for brunch and browsing the area. Towns could include Castle Rock, Loveland, Idaho Springs, Georgetown and more. While at Idaho Springs we would visit the hot springs for a relaxing end to their visit.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
All of my friends deserve a shoutout for the success of Faithfully K9 Service Dogs. We are a small and fairly new organization, founded January of 2018. Many foundations and nonprofits that support service dog training require an organization to have been in existence for over 5 years and/or have a substantial amount of money in the bank in order to offer their support – we had neither. Most of our donations to be able to continue our work have come from friends or people I know. We have relied on gofundme and facebook heavily. So a big shoutout to my friends who have supported Faithfully K9 from it’s inception and continue to do so today.
Patty’s Pet Photography