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Virginia Team Salutes Two New Warrior-Service Dog Teams!

 In General, Virginia

This past Saturday people flooded through the doors in a community hall in Virginia to watch something very humbling; two Warriors and their New Service Dogs graduating as tightly bonded teams from training.  For the past two weeks, our Ruther Glen, Virginia team has been working tirelessly during Client Training, along with two of our Warriors, Jake and Monty, to get them prepared to graduate with their new service dogs Autumn and Buck. Over 88 hours of intensive work were dedicated to this; 88 hours of the Warriors working through training sessions, lectures, field trips, exams, and ultimately passing their Assistance Dogs International (ADI) public access test.  And they did it all!  We could not be more proud! They didn’t do it alone though. One of our amazing volunteers, Bob B., was at the forefront of every situation that needed to be handled. Bob, a Warrior himself, really showed us what it means to serve even after your duty is done. We were so excited to award Bob with Paws for Purple Hearts’ Volunteer of the Year plaque on Saturday.

For some, it feels like a lifetime of waiting to get paired with a service dog, at least that is the feeling Warrior Monty had. Monty has been with our program since 2013 working with our Program Instructors at our Menlo Park site in California. As you may or may not know, the pairing of a Warrior and Service Dog takes time and a lot of detailed effort. It takes a lot of different testing and training to find that perfect match. You can imagine the excitement Monty felt when he got the call that we had found the right match for him. You can also imagine the hesitation he felt when he learned he would have to travel across the United States to Virginia to meet, train with, bond with, and receive that dog. Yet, despite the distance and some classic travel related bumps in the road (lost luggage, etc.), Monty pulled through the two weeks like an absolute champ. Now Monty and his new battle buddy Buck have formed an unbreakable bond that will continue to grow over time. Monty and Buck are back home now, after a long plane ride, and they are settling in well.

Warrior Jake has a very unique story.   He had actually been working with Autumn, the service dog he was eventually paired with, for the past year already in our Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy program. From the first time Program Instructor Heather saw Jake and Autumn together, she knew the pair would be inseparable and knew Autumn could and would be his battle buddy for life. Of course, this took some planning on Heather’s part. Pairing a dog with the Warrior that trains it during Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy is rarely done, but she was able to make it happen. Jake and Autumn are a dynamite team!  For those of you who know Autumn know she can be quite the pistol. Heather knew it would take a very special person to balance out Autumn’s independent attitude, and Jake does just that. As Heather said during the graduation ceremony, “There aren’t any words for the excitement I feel for these two.” Just like Monty, Jake overcame so much during these past two weeks and we are so proud of him and Autumn for doing so. We are so excited to hear more from Jake and how everything is going. Now Autumn is settling in at her new home.  We hear she loves her new backyard!

For everyone that participated in Saturday’s Graduation, we want to thank you. It means the world to us and our Warriors that you would come to celebrate with us! If you were not able to attend, we invite you to watch the ceremony on Facebook Live.

Jake & Autumn
Jake & Autumn
Monty & Buck
Monty & Buck

Enjoy this video that will give you a sneak peek into the past two weeks!

A huge thank you to our volunteer and puppy raiser, Melissa Dixon, for an amazing spread of food. Without our volunteers, we could not do what we do. With the new year coming, we ask that you consider being apart of something so much bigger. We ask that you consider volunteering with one of our Paws for Purple Hearts sites, or if you aren’t close to a facility, you can still help by donating. Every minute and every dollar that you contribute helps hundreds of Warriors.

A list of individuals/businesses we would like to thank that helped during the Client Training:

Volunteers; The Webb Family, The Ackerman Family, The Brookes Family, The Just Family, Rappahanock Electrical Cooperative, Mission BBQ in Fredericksburg, and a huge thank you to The Best Western Plus Thornburg Inn & Suites! You all played a vital role in the success of this December’s Client Training.

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