It is with confidence that I declare the best match-making service on this planet: Black Ops Rescue. I had the honor of interviewing Executive Director Kelley Forrester, and I learned so much about the power of service and connection. Through this non-profit organization, dozens of lives are transforming, and this intensely personal and magical work is happening right here in our Arvada community. It’s exciting and emotional, so grab your tissues.
Q: How did Black Ops Rescue come to be?
A: Black Ops Rescue began as an idea to serve two demographics in need: veterans and homeless pets. After working in local shelters for many years, myself and co-founder and CFO Nicole Schimming were deeply aware of the pet overpopulation problem and the necessity for loving, adoptive homes. Both of our significant others are military veterans and we had witnessed firsthand the mutual healing that can take place when a veteran bonds with a pet. Additionally, black pets are often more difficult to adopt out of a shelter environment due to cultural stigmas and the fact that getting good photos of them is more difficult. (Though we don't exclusively adopt out black pets, we do look at them first when seeking a match.) Creating a rescue that would help homeless pets and veterans seemed like a natural niche.
Q: What is it about Black Ops that is life-changing?
A: Many of our clients are socially isolated and find it difficult to be in public situations, much less the emotionally charged environment of an animal shelter. Essentially, we act as a "personal shopper,” finding the best pet match for the veteran through our network of shelter and rescue partnerships. Our adoptions are highly personalized to each veteran's specific wants, needs, home environment, and activity level. Once we find a match, we take care of all initial medical care, supplies, and training to ensure the veteran and pet get off on the right foot. We also provide supportive aftercare: checking in regularly and maintaining a relationship to meet whatever needs may arise.
Our veteran clients have shared many ways that adopting a pet from us has enriched and improved their lives. Providing structure to their day, increasing social interactions, and spending more time in nature and getting physical exercise are some of the ways pet adoption has elevated our clients' sense of well-being. At the most basic and important level, one of our clients recently put it very succinctly: "I have someone to love and someone that I know loves me."
Q: How does the veteran and pet pairing work?
A: We do an in-depth interview and home inspection with our veteran clients to assess our criteria. We take into account as many factors as we can in order to find the perfect match. Some clients are looking for small couch potatoes and some are looking for larger, more active pets. Some are looking for a companion and some are looking for a pet that can go on to become an emotional support or service animal. The factors that we consider vary according to each client. Because our service is so intensely personal, we tailor our service to best serve each individual veteran. The most important factor and the one we consider first in each pairing is what the veteran client most wants out of their relationship with their new pet.
Q: Why are you so passionate about this work?
A: I truly believe in the healing power of unconditional love and that's exactly what pets provide. I am a lifelong volunteer, employee, and supporter of shelters and rescues. I know how great the need is for adoptive homes because I've lived it. It was seeing the connection between my husband and our own dogs and cats that inspired me to work with veterans. As a veteran who struggles with PTSD, I witnessed how our pets were able to provide comfort and solace for him on difficult days.
Q: What is the best part of this organization?
A: I would say the best part is seeing the difference that our adoptions make in the lives of the pet and the veteran. The pet gets out of the shelter or rescue and into a loving home. The veteran gets a new best friend, a companion that enriches their life. It feels almost magical sometimes--seeing the difference we are privileged to make.
The other part of rescue that I really love are the connections that we make with others. From our rescue/shelter partners to our board members to our volunteers, it's really heartening to get to know so many people who are willing to help veterans and pets. We are all part of a diverse and giant team that wants to make the world a little bit better. It helps restore my faith in humanity.
Q: What else should Arvada readers know about the mission and the goals of Black Ops Rescue?
A: We are really growing right now and are so excited to be able to help more pets and serve more veterans! We want to make sure we stay in alignment with our goals of sustainability and high-quality services. Beginning this year, we hope to offer more opportunities for veterans and their pets to socialize with each other. We've also expanded our network of partners to include more under-resourced shelters and rescues so that we can better help those pets and organizations in greater need. In order to accomplish these goals, we will need more volunteers and foster parents. We need people who are willing to put their compassion into action, not just at Black Ops Rescue, not just in Arvada or Colorado, but in our world as a whole.
Kelley L. Forrester
Black Ops Rescue
Meet the Schomburgs. This happy family of five is proof of the impactful and transformative mission work fulfilled by Black Ops Rescue. Veteran wife Rena gives us a glimpse of their experience:
After waiting a full year after the death of our senior adopted dog, we decided it was time to open our home to another pup. Having a younger child, we wanted a younger puppy with the energy to keep up with our family’s activities. We turned to Black Ops Rescue for help. After learning about the services that Black Ops offered to veterans, we knew we wanted to support their mission to help shelter pets and veterans at the same time. The organization was amazing from the start. They began by interviewing the entire family to determine our ideal puppy. When we met Tango for the first time, we just knew he was the one. He brought love in the form of a little wet nose into our family. We have been able to take him hiking, camping, and even boating! Tango sits under our 7 year-old’s chair during online school, and Tango sleeps at the foot of his bed. Our son even calls Tango his brother. Black Ops Rescue gave us support, guidance and even assistance with training to ensure Tango would be the perfect fit. It was a great experience and I recommend the rescue to every veteran whom I meet.