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Reduce stress with a dog in a vest

 In PPH Alaska

It is vacation season. With that comes plenty of traveling—especially flying. Flying is a magical experience where you are lifted effortlessly into the heavens and transported to a whole new world feeling rested and restored. I’m kidding—its tiring, cramped, and STRESSFUL!

This is just how 12-year-old Kailyn was feeling as she was prepared to leave Alaska in a plane. Luckily, her grandparents are part of a program—Paws for Purple Hearts. PPH’s mission is, “we are dedicated to improving the lives of America’s Warriors facing mobility challenges and trauma related conditions such as PTSD and TBI by providing the highest quality service dogs and canine assisted therapeutic programs”. Kailyn’s grandmother, Michele Ingraham, is a Puppy Parent for the organization. This means she helps watch and train service dogs in training in the evenings or on weekends. Their service dog in training, Ralph, was able to offer some of the services that he learned in his training.

PPH’s dogs are trained to help those with mobility challenges, as well as helping calm symptoms of PTSD or other trauma signs. In this case Ralph’s training told him that Kailyn was sad and stressed out. In response he nudged her with his snout to notify her that he was there and recognized her feelings. After a nudge did not work to fix the situation, Ralph then performed a ‘lap’. This is where the dog carefully puts their front paws on the lap of their handler to give more comfort and offer to be both a barrier and a way to make the handler happy via petting or stroking their K9 friend—an effective way to reduce stress. Michele Ingraham adds that, “we were all sad she was leaving so he stayed close and comforted all of us. I am a Veteran and do not suffer from PTSD, but I do get stressed and having Ralph with us has been such a blessing. I absolutely know he is going to be the best PTSD service dog ever. It’s amazing how they can turn things around for you for the better”.

When asked about how being a Paws for Purple Hearts Puppy Parent, has impacted their lives Ingraham responded, “we lost our dog to cancer in 2014 and have been wanting a dog but we travel a lot. Having Ralphie has given us the opportunity to enjoy the company of a dog but don’t have to worry that we are gone a lot. He has brought so much joy into our home. We love working with him on his commands and helping him grow into a well-trained service dog. But my favorite thing is when he knows I’m sad or upset or stressed and he snuggles. I sit on the floor with him and get lots of Ralphie hugs and kisses. We have already recruited a few Puppy Parents and we always speak highly of the program. Everyone needs to know how wonderful these dogs are and how much joy and comfort they will bring to the Veterans who need them”.

What exactly is a Puppy Parent?

PPH Puppy Parents are special people. They are dog lovers. They love our PPH mission. They respect the unique needs of living with service dog pups in training. They are generous and selfless. They are committed to helping shape a highly capable service dog for a Service Member or Veteran in need. Puppy Parents are our VERY important volunteers that take a service puppy or dog in training home so the dog is socialized to new situations, new people, and the home environment. The service dog in training lives at the Puppy Parent’s home on weekends or during the evenings and weekends, and accompanies the Puppy Parent on outings. Puppy Parents receive ongoing training from PPH Instructors and are expected to do some basic training with the dog as well as adhere to certain standards for the dog’s behavior in the home.

How do I become a Puppy Parent?

To become a Puppy Parent you can visit our website and read about the responsibilities and qualifications and then you can fill out an application. The application will be reviewed and if you are a good match for a current dog, you will be contacted and an at-home interview will be performed to make sure the living area is appropriate for a service dog in training (they are still puppies sometimes).

Other Ways to Support our Mission

Unable to become a Puppy Parent but still want to help Paws for Purple Hearts change Warriors’ lives for the better?  There are many ways to assist. You can donate, attend one of our events, or start your own fundraiser through Facebook!  Every bit helps. There are also other opportunities to volunteer with us. Please consider signing up.  Help us accomplish our mission today!

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