10 Years of PPH
Paws for Purple Hearts is proud to celebrate 10 years of improving the lives of Veterans and Active Duty Service Members facing mobility challenges and trauma-related conditions. Over the past few years Paws for Purple Hearts has expanded to five facilities across the US, deployed 128 dogs, and directly improved the lives of over 10,000 Warriors. It all started as a research program at the prestigious Bergin College of Canine Studies, conducted in partnership with the VA Palo Alto Health Care System team in Menlo Park, CA. The program involved an innovative therapeutic model in which Warriors received therapeutic benefit that helped reduce their PTSD symptoms through participation in sessions during which they trained and prepared service dogs for their fellow injured Warriors. This method is now known as Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy®, and our motto is “Warriors Helping Warriors®” because of this concept. As the program built momentum and became more widely known, the demand for our therapy and top-notch dogs grew. In response to this demand, and to allow us to focus better on the important mission, we established Paws for Purple Hearts as an independent nonprofit which was officially recognized on June 29, 2011.
Let’s take a look back at the past 10 years of
PPH and see how far we’ve come.
PPH Origins: Bonnie Bergin
Dr. Bonita (Bonnie) Bergin invented the concept of the Service Dog to assist people with mobility limitations in 1975. At that time, she founded Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), the first nonprofit to train and place mobility Service Dogs.
After leaving CCI In 1991, Dr. Bergin founded the Assistance Dog Institute, which was formally designated a university in early 2004. Today, the growing Bergin College of Canine Studies is the only college dedicated to the study of the human-canine bond. We believe it produces the best service dog trainers in the world!
2006 – Bergin University
Being the only university of its kind in the world and renowned for their innovations in the assistance dog industry, the Bergin College of Canine Studies marked another milestone. Paws for Purple Hearts is founded with a unique approach; Veterans participate in the training of future service dogs for themselves and fellow Service Members. The proof-of-concept is a resounding success with the Veteran community, and Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® is born.
2008 – Canine Intervention Therapy
The as Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® pilot program is rolled out at VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System, in Menlo Park, California. Patients immediately respond to the idea of instructing the dogs as a form of therapy for themselves and report feeling a greater sense of purpose knowing they have a new mission that will help a comrade-in-arms when each dog’s training is complete.
2011 – PPH Established as a Nonprofit
Having grown from its humble beginnings just five years earlier at the Bergin College of Canine Studies, Paws for Purple Hearts establishes itself as an independent non-profit recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) entity.
2013 – First Training Boot Camp
Paws for Purple Hearts launches its First Training “Boot Camp,” conducted to pair service dogs with impaired Warriors through a rigorous matching process in Menlo Park, CA. Veterans are given a comprehensive two-week training course on proper handling and commands of their new “Battle Buddy” service dog who will assist the Veteran to integrate back into society successfully.
2015 – Facility in Northern Virginia and Fairbanks, Alaska
Paws for Purple Hearts opens a new facility in Virginia to serve the National Capital Region and Richmond areas. Being close to Fredericksburg, VA the facility expands the number of Veterans that can be helped in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Paws for Purple Hearts establishes operations in Fairbanks, Alaska. The new center is located in one of the highest per capita Veteran populations in the United States near Fort Wainwright Army Base and Eielson Air Force Base.
2016 – Paws for Purple Hearts Expands
2018 – Fairbanks office Relocates
Paws for Purple Hearts Alaska moves to Anchorage in 2018. This move allows our Program Instructors and their amazing service dogs in training to provide therapy at the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital, the VA Domiciliary, the VA main clinic and Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER).
2019 – 37 Dogs Placed
30 Service Dogs, 3 Facility Dogs, and 4 Specialist Dogs
By 2019 we had placed a total of 37 dogs to date. Our two most recent service dogs graduated in December, 2019. Buck and Autumn trained with their Warriors in PPH Ruther Glen, Virginia and are now living life with their new human companions. Both of these service dogs will help their Warriors live a more independent life and help them along the path to recovery.
2020 – #OperationPawsitivity
During the beginning of COVID-19, some of our unique Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® sessions were put on hold for the time being due to social distancing requirements, but Paws for Purple Hearts actively found ways to stay connected to those who may be feeling isolated during this time. #OperationPawsitivity was an opportunity to show our Warriors that we were thinking of them every day even though we couldn’t be with them in person. With the help of our community, we spread messages of thanks, encouragement and positivity to our Veterans and Service Members.
Our goal for the future here at Paws for Purple Hearts is to be within reach of every Veteran and Active Duty Service Member in the United States. We would like to expand to every region in the US so each Veteran and Active Duty Service Member in need can be a part of our program and get the kind of help our wonderful dogs provide. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our volunteers, donors and communities that have allowed us to reach and enrich the lives of the brave Warriors who have sacrificed so much for us. Help us continue our mission by donating on our website at paws4ph.org.