A unique program at the Austin Dog Alliance gave a young woman with brain injury a new direction and purpose. We had to share this story from them.
Katie is the first student to complete the vocational training classes and start earning a paycheck through our S+CORE! (Students + Canines = Opportunities for Rewarding Employment) program of Austin Dog Alliance.
In 2010, then 18-year-old Katie Williams was at college, living a typical middle-class American life. Until she was in a car accident. Her parents were, of course, devastated, but grateful that she survived, even though a brain injury would make it impossible for her to continue a rigorous college education.
“Katie was pronounced unresponsive at the scene of the accident, so we are just blessed she’s alive,” says Katie’s dad. “But she’s recovering from a brain injury and will have that deficit the rest of her life. Her neuropsychologist directed us to DARS (Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services), which did a thorough vocational assessment and recommended we talk to Austin Dog Alliance, suggesting she would do well in an environment working with animals.”
“I was really interested in working with animals, particularly dogs,” says Katie, “and through Austin Dog Alliance’s 18-week course, they showed me how to get into a career working with dogs.
“We visited a lot of animal shelters, veterinarian offices and pet stores and learned about different types of food and dog viruses and dog breeds. We learned how to approach an animal. Like, you can’t come on strong. You have to kind of bend down as you approach them, so they know not to be afraid of you. And we learned to train dogs and how to properly restrain them so they wouldn’t hurt you or the doctor.
“I learned to apply for a job and how to make a resume. What to say and what not to say to a potential employer and how to come off as a reliable person. Then they helped me apply to different jobs. It was an incredible program. Debi and Susan and all the other people who work there are amazing teachers.”
Today Katie works at a veterinary center that specializes in surgeries and oncology.
“I really like it<‘ she says. “Some of the dogs come in really sick with cancer tumors, and I like seeing that we’ve made them healthy again. I assist with whatever they need. My main job is cleaning the surgical tools, washing off the blood, putting them in sterilization, and putting them into the autoclave, which really sterilizes them again, so they’re ready for the next surgery.”
It’s been a tough road for Katie and her family, but her dad sees the good with the bad.
“Today, parents think their child is going to get a four-year degree and have a successful career,” says Katie’s dad. “Katie’s accident sidetracked her from that, so for her to find what she loves to do is very important to my wife and me.
“Life changes. My daughter’s accident was October 2010. Four years to the exact day, she graduated from the Austin Dog Alliance. That’s a lot of progress, and a lot of irony. It shows good things come from bad.
“I can’t say enough about S+CORE and the Austin Dog Alliance. They helped Katie find her path.”
Helping adults struggling with disabilities find their paths is what S+CORE is all about. Austin Dog Alliance is the only organization in Texas providing this specialized education and job placement assistance for dog-related careers. Katie is the first of many students who will find their dream job because of donors’ support.
Learn more about Austin Dog Alliance and its S+CORE program.
Share this story: