The Masonic Association of Service and Therapy dogs, was able to attend the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo at Arlington Racecourse last weekend (3/16-18/2018). We had a GREAT TIME meeting hundreds of new people from all walks of life. Personally, I have never talked that much in a 10 hour stretch in my life. And I have never smiled so much.

Why did we do it? Because we truly believe in MAST’s mission and capabilities.

What did we do at the Expo that was so special?

We told our story. We generated awareness. We had our certified therapy dogs on hand to provide therapy in real-time!

So, what’s it like to have a booth at an Expo? It’s hard work. It’s volunteering. It’s spreading the word of how our organization works. It’s asking people to help us with our organization so that we can reach more people and help them through K-9 assisted service and therapy.

Let me tell you about our organization, from an insider’s perspective.

Its about charity, community service, volunteerism and FAMILY.

Here is how MAST works:

We are two things. A service dog procurement/training 501c3 charity, and therapy/crisis response dog volunteer teams.

One part of our organization is Service dog procurement, boarding, training, healthcare, etc. MAST pays for all these things out of generous donations. Monies we receive from donors go right into our Service dog program. No one who volunteers with MAST takes any kind of salary. Monies go back into our programs.

MAST’s Program Director and Service Dog Coordinator go to animal shelters and SAVE the life of dogs they meet who are suitable for Service dog work. Then they take the dogs and put them through boarding, healthcare and training. Training happens at highly regarded places such as TOPs in Grayslake, (it’s where they train police dogs).

Once the dog begins training, and an applicant is chosen, BOTH dog and applicant go through training together. Once all the requirements have been met for training, the dog goes home with the applicant. MAST performs wellness checks, to make sure the dogs are taken care of, and not neglected or in danger. Once all criteria are met, the dog is presented to the applicant, FREE OF CHARGE.

This is important because training can cost $5,000 to $45,000 depending on the level of training the dog needs to support the applicant and provide very specialized service to its new owner.

The other half of our mission is about offering our social Therapy dog teams to visit facilities, and other events. We are a Therapy dog certification organization, recognized by the AKC. We train handlers and their dogs. We offer a 10-week training course. (6 weeks of obedience, 4 weeks of healthcare center/hospital training). We also handle supervised visits, so the dogs can get experience in hospital settings.

We then we offer an evaluation/certification test. We have a highly experienced evaluator administering the certification exam. The dog and handler must pass the exam to receive the recognized certification. After passing, the handler and dog can volunteer for visits with MAST! We go to places like IL Masonic Hospital, James A. Lovell Healthcare Center, domestic violence shelters, we help children going through court systems, walk parades, work with girl scouts, and much more. We also partner with the Medinah Shrine Therapy Dog club to visit crisis areas to provide support for those effected by things like natural disasters, and other catastrophes.

We are always looking for volunteers! And once you are a volunteer, you become part of a family of like-minded people, and like-minded dogs. All of us on a mission for the same reason. To help our fellow humans lead happier lives.

So, MAST prides itself for being a 501c3 charitable organization that pays for the boarding, training and healthcare of the service dog, and then turns around and gives the dogs FREE of charge to patients like U.S. Veterans, who may not be able to afford such high costs.

MAST works to save two lives, the life of the Vet, and the life of the dog.

And all this is what we relayed to visitors to our booth. The next time we are in an expo please come by and see us, get some therapy (and give our pups some love), and perhaps help us in our mission.

At our booth we had merchandise to help generate funds for our programs. We had car decals for a $1 donation. Cloth tote bags for $5. And then t-shirts for $25. All donations go into our programs. All items are available on our website, and we can ship them to donors.

MAST would like to thank all the generous people who helped our cause. Your donation means the world to us, to the people we help, and the dogs we rescue.

We also thank our WONDERFUL volunteers that came and shared their weekend with us, and talked about our programs, and showed off our FURRY volunteers. It was a family effort and MAST appreciates the time you give, and all the smiles you generate.

To learn more about MAST or SHOP our merchandise, visit our website!