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Meet Chris O’Brian of Forgotten Coast K9

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris O’Brian.

Hi Chris, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I was the K9 Unit supervisor for the Madison County (FL) Sheriff’s Office and became involved in training the dogs as well. Upon completion of Top Tier K9’s Foundation Dog® trainer program, I had the opportunity to give one of my best friends a service dog I trained to help him deal with his PTSD.

Immediately after that experience, I was contacted by a charity in Texas to provide a service dog to another deserving veteran whose service dog had recently passed. The feeling you get from truly helping others and seeing their lives change in front of you is amazing. It was at this point I decided to start our charity, Forgotten Coast K9, and help as many veterans and first responders as possible.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The two struggles we have are, of course, raising money to offset our costs and getting the veterans out there to realize we are here.

We’ve been impressed with Forgotten Coast K9, Inc., but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We do things a little different here, as far as the standard for service dogs goes. One way we are different is that we provide service dogs for veterans and first responders. There were two first responders and two veterans in our first class. Another way we deviate from the norm is that we have two options we currently offer for obtaining a service dog from us.

The first is the “Build a Battle Buddy” program where we start our students off with an eight to ten-week-old puppy and go through a 30 week online live training program where they learn to train their puppy from pet level obedience all the way through to a completed service dog. They then go to Florida for a two-week certification process. The other option is the “Buy a Battle Buddy” program where the student gets an older dog that has already completed Top Tier K9’s Foundation Dog® program.

The student then goes through six weeks of live online training and follows that with the same two-week certification process. All of the training is coordinated and accomplished by Top Tier K9, one of the best dog trainer schools in the country.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
The biggest risk I personally took was to walk away from a very good career with a great retirement to begin this new endeavor with no guarantees of success. It took a couple of years of planning and saving to do it, but has been worth every shaky moment so far.

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