River City Six: Michelle O’Dea
Meet Michelle O’Dea, Executive Director of Domesti-PUPS (www.domesti-pups.org).
Tell us a little about your organization.
Domesti-PUPS is a nonprofit organization based in Lincoln, Nebraska that provides therapy dogs and service dogs for persons with disabilities statewide and beyond.
How did you get started in the business?
I’ve had a passion for dogs since childhood. My professional direction was marketing and advertising, but I never lost my passion for animals, and wanted a way to incorporate them. A request for an animal’s assistance springboarded me to start this nonprofit 18 years ago.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
Dealing with a disability and still maintaining my personal and professional life. My body does not always cooperate with my plans, so I’ve learned to adapt. I have used a wheelchair and a service dog in the past, but luckily, today I’m on my own two feet without assistance.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
Building a nationally-known nonprofit organization, although I can’t take much more credit than implementing an idea. The organization grows organically, as people find their own passions within our mission, and the talented volunteers keep the momentum going.
Tell us a little about your family.
I got married for the first time at the age of 50. Never say never! I now have wonderful children and grandchildren, and of course the furkids: Jasper, a 4-year-old Berndedoodle, and Emmett, a 6-month-old Bengal kitten.
What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
Reconnecting with the love of my life after 30 years. I can now say that my heart and soul are at peace.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
On those rare occasions, I like to sleep in, travel, find new and interesting restaurants, or spend quality time with my husband.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know?
People are surprised to find out Domesti-PUPS is not my day job. It is a volunteer position I do outside of my full-time job.
What are you the most proud of?
My greatest accomplishments are the successes of others. For me, that’s been empowering an inmate to learn a new skill and think beyond themselves for the greater good or training a dog well enough to provide lifesaving measures, allowing a disabled individual to lead a more independent life.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I was complaining about missing a deadline, and a coworker said to me, “In the whole scheme of life, how important is this one thing?” That statement took my breath away, and I looked at life much differently after that.
If you could choose only one descriptive word to be remembered as, what would it be?
What is your greatest talent that you don’t utilize in your daily work life?
Not to boast, but I’m pretty good on the target range. Needless to say, most don’t make fun of my pink-camo 22!
What is your favorite book or the last good book you read?
My favorite is Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor. It’s the ‘bible’ for using positive training methods instead of punishment for dog training.
If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be?
Robin Williams. Not for his humor (although that would be a bonus), but for the kind and intellectual side of knowing him.