PAWS & Axiom

Five smiling people (two men and three women) standing in front of a fireplace and mirror in a sunny room. 
L - R: DORS Consumer Sharmaine Brickhouse, WTC Employment Services Supervisor Jessica Hawes, DORS (Suitland office) Rehabilitation Counselor Lulvential Keller, Employment Services Specialist Jacquelyn Hart, Consumer Briea Rozier-Walker, and (Suitland office) Rehabilitation Counselor Raymond Chase.
DORS consumers Briea Rozier-Walker and Sharmaine Brickhouse will soon be the newest employees at a new pet retreat in Clinton, Maryland. Axiom Pet Resort was opened in July of 2015 by Charlie Pitt and David Moore, who are both U.S. Navy K-9 Handlers.  Axiom has strict requirements for pet care and cleanliness, so Charles was pleased to find two potential employees who shared his high standards. “It’s hard to find someone who’s really passionate about this kind of work. It’s easy to find someone who wants to play with dogs all day, but DORS [consumers] have gone there saying ‘This is the work I want to do’.”
 
Both Briea and Sharmaine completed the DORS’ Workforce & Technology Center’s (WTC) Professional Animal Workers (PAWS) training and then moved on to Work Readiness with on-the-job training at Axiom in January.
 
“We were introduced to Axiom via Briea,” says WTC’s Employment Services Specialist Jackie Hart. “She saw that they were opening a doggie daycare in Clinton and told us about it. So, I called and talked with Charlie and asked if we could come down for an interview. We met with [the owners] and they were impressed by what the girls had learned in PAWS.”
 
PAWS is a 10-week partnership program between WTC and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). PAWS prepares individuals with disabilities to work in shelters and kennels, veterinary offices and hospitals, doggie daycare centers, pet grooming shops, and pet stores. The program is taught by a CCBC instructor.
 
Briea and Sharmaine both have learning disabilities, but their disabilities have not prevented them from knowing where they wanted to work. Briea: “It’s all I ever wanted to do [work with animals]. I love it here!”
Sharmaine is training for a bathing and kennel technician position and Briea is training to be a daycare attendant/kennel technician; both expect to be hired in February. Sharmaine says she, too, enjoys the work and is pleased to be working and training at Axiom three days per work.
 
Briea’s DORS Counselor Raymond Chase says that the connections Jackie made between Axiom and the Work Readiness program made his job easier. “You don’t always have the option of connecting consumers with exactly what they want to do, so this is great.  She gets hands-on, physical work experience…and it gives the employer the opportunity to observe the consumer at work.”
 
Charlie was a Navy working dog handler for eight years, including during a deployment.  He was awarded the Navy Marine Corps Medal for actions he and his dog took in the Washington Navy Yard Shooting. His new business is doing well and he has high praise for how DORS and WTC’s PAWS and Work Readiness programs have helped with Axiom’s success. “Jackie was very persistent…but it’s been great. For us as small business and a new business, to be able to try someone and train them before they are on our payroll… well, we couldn’t be more pleased. I would tell other small businesses, if you are looking for good staff, contact DORS.”