Our First Facility Dog Retires After 9 Years of Service
The value of bringing a smile to someone’s face is hard to estimate, but its importance is incomparable. Every moment a Paws for Purple Hearts dog brings joy to a Warrior is a minute, an hour, a day well-spent. The goal of each Paws for Purple hearts dog is to spread love and happiness with those around them for as long as they can. For nine years, Webb (above) spread love and joy among thousands of Veterans in the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Now he’s venturing into retirement where he’ll spread love and joy to a whole new group of people.
The First, But Not the Last
Webb was the first Paws for Purple Hearts dog to be placed in a VA facility. He will not be the last. To learn the skills needed to become a facility dog, eligible pups must go through 2-3 years of specialized training where they learn commands like “visit,” where they place their head on a patient’s lap, and “shake,” where they greet a new Warrior entering the facility. Instead of being focused on therapeutic intervention, dogs like Webb thrive in boosting the morale of those around them through small, informal interactions, lifting moods and bringing smiles to the patients, families and staff at the facility they work at each day.
Webb graduated as a facility dog in 2011 and initially started his facility dog role at the Menlo Park VA Community Living Center. Shortly after, he became the first facility dog for the Welcome Center at the Menlo Park VA. He served in the Welcome Center for 9 years, happily greeting guests, Veterans and staff daily and brightening the experiences of those around him.
“Over the course of Webb’s career, he has directly supported more than a thousand Warriors” said Tamara B., Senior Program Instructor, “He has far surpassed all expectations of what an exceptional facility dog should be like. Webb is, and always will be, the heart of the Welcome Center. “
An Early Retirement Party
Typically you don’t throw retirement parties for 11 year-olds. Then again, it’s uncommon for one dog to have such an impact on those around him. Born in 2009, Webb has spent the majority of his life lifting the spirits of Warriors. The Menlo Park VA recently threw him a retirement party to celebrate his 9 years of service and to wish him the best as he heads into the next chapter of his life. Webb not only departs Menlo Park VA with a few more friends, but he leaves having had a great positive impact. He will be remembered fondly in the hearts of all who visit, stay and work at the facility, whether they are Veterans or their families, VA team members, or the Paws for Purple Hearts crew.
“Webb is leaving a real legacy; he was one of the first dogs in the program. He is going to leave a huge hole in our hearts, and it’s going to be hard not seeing him at the Welcome Center anymore. He had a basket full of toys and would bring it to people and if he heard the door open he would come out and greet you,”
Megan F., PPH Advancement Associate, reminisced fondly.
A New Home, Horizon
Webb’s handler, Sausha, has been beside him for the majority of his years of service at the Menlo Park VA. In her role as Webb’s primary contact person and handler, she managed his daily activities and provided routine care to him. Sausha will continue to work at the facility as a Recreation Therapist, but will no longer drive Webb to work with her. Instead, she’ll have to wait until she returns home (now Webb’s forever home too) each day to experience Webb’s smiling face and immense joyfulness.
Sausha said, “Webb cannot get enough love and petting from those he meets, he will sit there for an hour if you keep petting him. As for staff, he was a great morale booster. The staff would make sure the Webb dog cookie jar was always full for him to get his treats. If someone had a bad day, he knew it intuitively; he would go up and nudge their hand until they stopped what they were doing and pet him. They all laughed and knew what he was doing, so they would stop and take a moment to be with him.”
If you’d like to learn more about Webb’s journey or to find out what he’s doing in retirement, you can follow the #pphWebb hashtag on social media. You can also view his retirement party video by visiting our Facebook page.
While Webb’s role as a facility dog is invaluable, the time and training needed to prepare a dog for this important role is expensive. If you’d like to support the Paws for Purple Hearts mission to improve the lives of our Nation’s Warriors and help us raise special dogs just like Webb, please consider making a donation on our website or visit our Amazon Wishlist today to purchase supplies for our training center.