After more than 20 years at QVC, most recently as the vice president of marketing, Wayne’s Mark Stieber formed Main Line Deputy Dog, which finds and trains dogs as service animals for those in need, including veterans.
1. The Phillies. “I’m really into baseball.”
2. Harford Park. “It’s an awesome place I go with my dogs.”
3. Caleb Carr. “He’s a great military historian and author. I like a lot of his books.”
4. Villanova basketball. “I’m really into it because I went to Villanova.”
5. Dragon boats. “I’m now on a dragon-boat team. It’s really fun and rewarding and something I didn’t have time for in the past.”
MLT: What is Main Line Deputy Dog and what is its goal?
MS: We help people with disabilities train their own service dogs. It’s an alternative to traditional places where people apply for a service dog. It’s for the right person and the right dog. As a secondary mission, I rescue dogs locally, too. Students adopt the dog and come to us weekly for class. It takes anywhere from one to two years to train a service dog.
MLT: What made you decide to found Main Line Deputy Dog?
MS: I was at QVC for 23 to 24 years. When I left, I knew I wanted to do nonprofits. I was volunteering and I read an article about service dogs. I didn’t even know what they were. I’m a huge dog lover and it started with that. I went around the country trying to learn as much as I could. I ended up in Tucson, Ariz., at this organization that helps people train their dogs, and I wanted to copy their program. You get to work personally and individually with the students, which I really wanted. I partnered with this organization in Malvern, which has 35 years of experience training dogs. We just certified our 10th dog/person team.
MLT: How does the process work?
MS: Most people find us on the Internet. If they think they’ll be able to train, they’ll come to me. I interview them and determine whether I think they can train a dog and whether they need a service dog. Assuming we think we can work together, we start looking for a dog. Once we’ve found one, we meet with the trainer and have an evaluation. We might have them take a puppy class or manners class to get them in the mode of learning and then we go from there.
MLT: What do you look for in a potential service dog?
MS: They can’t be nervous, afraid, or aggressive. They have to be really into people. Dogs are either primarily focused on people or their environment. I look for people-orientation, treat motivation—being rewarded for doing tasks—and they have to be interested in and capable of doing tasks. Most dogs are smart enough, they just might not be willing enough.
MLT: What’s the most rewarding part?
MS: It’s absolutely working with the people and the dogs. It’s seeing the difference the dog can make in a person’s life. We have a lot of veterans in our group and some of them have mobility and psychiatric issues. Some have PTSD and haven’t been able to get out of the house. With a dog that’s going to make them feel more comfortable, they’re able to get out and live more independently. It’s the most rewarding, seeing how the dog-human partnership is working and changing these people. And the dogs, too, because they now have a life outside of rescue, and a job to do, which most dogs want, and they’re being fulfilled.