In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to share my experiences as a female CEO and Founder of three non-profit organizations (a service dog organization, an Institute for Higher Learning, and a veterinary teaching hospital. I have loved all animals my entire life, had extensive experience with multiple species including training dogs professionally for most of my life, in addition to managing big box stores.
How It All Began
Fourteen years ago, before beginning Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, I experienced a pivotal moment in my life when I met a young, quadriplegic man who asked me to obedience train his dog. This man wanted to lead a more independent life, leading me to take the training to a much higher level resulting in the training of a full mobility dog that could do tasks for him that he was not able to do, such as opening/closing doors and drawers, turning on/off lights, transferring from a wheelchair to a shower or bed, picking up dropped items, bringing food or water from the refrigerator, etc.
Seeing the enormous impact the dog made on this man’s life and how he was able to regain his independence and dignity showed me that my dog training talents could be used for a much higher calling. So, at age 56, when many people are beginning to plan their retirement, I started my first non-profit – Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, growing it into a national, multi-million-dollar company.
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we have now donated and paired over 400 dogs in 30 states. We also employ people in five states and have volunteers in nearly every state in the country. We have improved the lives of hundreds of disabled individuals, giving them back their freedom and self-esteem and stopping their suicidal ideations while also improving the lives of their families and helping them restore estranged relationships. Most importantly, we have a zero suicide rate and less than a 3% divorce rate.
As we grew, I needed to develop more qualified people to do this advanced, life-changing, life-saving work. This first resulted in writing college accredited/VA approved curriculums and starting an apprenticeship program. Since then, I saw the need to start an educational non-profit (The Borden Institute of Higher Learning) that teaches all animal related careers such as licensed veterinary technicians, specialty fields, kennel management, agricultural classes and more. In an effort to provide the best possible care for our dogs and teams while reducing our costs, I started our first of a chain of non-profit veterinary teaching hospitals (The Borden Veterinary Hospitals) that will also help low income communities.
Being a Woman is Not an Obstacle
I view myself as a person, meaning that I believe we can be who we want to be regardless of gender. I have never considered being a woman to be an obstacle. The only things that matter are how you apply yourself, professionalism, persistence, respect, honesty, and caring about all living things – human or otherwise. Those things are not gender specific; therefore, I didn’t let being a woman enter into my mindset or deter me from what I wanted to accomplish.
What Inspires Me
People less fortunate than myself inspire me to use my talents to help others. I am so thankful to have good health and strength of mind and body to help those that do not have these precious gifts. And, of course, I could not do this without my husband, who is my constant support in so many ways.
Additionally, I am also surrounded by a wonderful team of employees that help me execute our mission. I never want to let any of these people down – those less fortunate, my husband, or the employees that depend on me.
Advice for the Next Generation of Women Heroes
The advice I have to offer to future female leaders is this:
- Never give up, and be willing to accept setbacks.
- Study your weaknesses or failures and learn from them, so they are not in vain.
- Research what you need to know so you can create a better plan.
- Have a “why.” What is it you want to accomplish in life and why? Your “why” must be powerful, and it must be yours. Maybe your “why” is about money or success or helping others or for your family. Whatever it is that drives you to the next level must be driven by your “why.”
Visit our website today to learn more about the Guardian Angels’ mission and how you can support us in pairing service dogs with those in need.
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- Message From our Founder: Women’s History Month - February 28, 2023