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Welcome to the Veterans Summit!

Veterans Summit

Mary Cortani

Co-Author, Four Paws, Two Feet, One Team

Former Army Master Instructor  of Canine Education

 Women's Army Corps,

U. S. Army 

Founder, Operation Freedom Paws

Mary Cortani is an Army Veteran and was one of the last members of the U.S. Army’s WACs (Women’s Army Corps), serving from 1975 to 1984. While in the military, Mary became a certified Army Master Instructor of Canine Education. After her service, Mary went on to earn a degree in computer engineering and worked in information technology. During this time, she continued to train dogs and participate in K9 Search and Rescue. In 2007, Mary decided to start a full-time dog training business, and she also became an American Kennel Club Certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator.  


In 2010, Mary was contacted by a veteran who would become Operation Freedom Paws’ first client. He reached out after being on another organization’s service dog waiting list for three years, without receiving help. In that moment, Mary knew she wanted to help, and Operation Freedom Paws was born.  


Operation Freedom Paws is dedicated to empowering veterans, first responders, and children and other individuals with disabilities, by restoring their freedom to live life. Operation Freedom Paws teaches them to train a rescued dog for their specific disability, and certifies them as service dog teams. To date, Operation Freedom Paws has been honored to serve over 400 clients, 2,100 families, and rescue over 370 dogs.  


Drawing on her over 44 years of expertise training dogs, including patrol, narcotics, explosive detection, and search and service dogs, Mary was well prepared for her role as the Founder and Executive Director of Operation Freedom Paws. And now, Operation Freedom Paws is celebrating a decade of creating and certifying service dog teams to help support clients’ physical and psychological well-being. Mary is honored to further support that mission by collaborating with Johns Hopkins University in a two-year scientific research study to determine how service dogs impact a veteran’s quality of life.  


Mary continues to be an American Kennel Club Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator. In addition, she has received numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work, including: Top Ten CNN Hero, The Red Cross Clara Barton Award, the Coretta Scott King Award from the Martin Luther King Foundation, KSBW’s local and national Jefferson Awards, as well as special recognition from the California State Assembly and the United States Congress.  

Recently, Mary co-authored a children’s book, Four Paws, Two Feet, One Team, about a rescue puppy named Dakota, who grows up to be a service dog. She hopes the book will be an educational tool that helps kids understand the different and vital roles service dogs play in many people’s lives. The book will be released in December 2020, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.com.

Mary Cortani

Co-Author, Four Paws, Two Feet, One Team

Former Army Master Instructorof Canine Education

Women's Army Corps,U. S. Army 

Founder, Operation Freedom Paws


Canine Therapy & Service Dogs

Click here for more information about Operation Freedom Paws

CNN video showing what it’s really like to be inside the mind of a veteran upon return to civilian life. (Video credit: CNN; Courtesy of Operation Freedom Paws.)

Available now from Amazon.com

Click on image to order!


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