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PPH Northwest Region

Serving the state of Alaska since 2015

About Us

The Paws for Purple Hearts (PPH) Northwest Region team is based in a unique location. Alaska has more Veterans per capita than any other state. Alaska is home to over 70,000 Veterans and approximately 20,000 active duty Service Members, comprising a significant population of potential service dog recipients and canine-assisted therapy participants. The Anchorage area is home to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (aka “JBER”) which was formed in 2010 through the merger of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson.

We’ve been in operation serving Alaska’s Warriors since 2015. In 2016 we opened a facility in Fairbanks. In 2019 we relocated to Anchorage. It is an honor and a privilege to provide our Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® to our beloved Warriors. Our innovative therapy programs reach Veterans and Active Duty Service Members at the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital and the VA Domiciliary in Anchorage. More programs are in development. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

Beyond Alaska, we support and assist dog recipients throughout our region (serving Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming) to ensure a successful lifelong partnership when we provide a service dog, facility dog or specialist therapy dog.

Northwest Service Region Service Area: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

Northwest Region

  • Service Area: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
  • Headquarters: Anchorage, Alaska
  • 7049 Arctic BLVD, Anchorage, AK 99518
  • (907) 782-4473

Helpful Links

Our Team


  • Debbie Zastrow Yanagida, Senior Program Instructor
    As a Senior Program Instructor for Paws for Purple Hearts, Debbie trains Service dogs and provides animal assisted therapeutic programs for our county’s warriors. She is a Certified NATIONAL Crisis Response Team with her canines Kali and Kenji. They engage with trauma support agencies and first responders across Alaska to facilitate crisis intervention and development of healthy coping mechanisms. Debbie graduated from Gateway Technical Inst with a Licensed Practical Nursing Diploma in 1977. In 1988 received an Associate Degree as a Registered Dental Hygienist from the University of Anchorage Alaska. Through her volunteer work with NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines she learned the impact the animals could have on individuals experiencing trauma, grief, and suicide on families and the community. Having many family members including her son serve our country in various branches of the military, Debbie felt this is a way to give back to those who put their life on the line to serve their country, often times at a great cost to themself and their families.

Profile picture of Melissa with a service dog.

  • Melissa Kitko, Program Instructor
    MMelissa is an Air Force veteran, a Registered Nurse, a Program Instructor with Paws for Purple Hearts, a Certified NATIONAL Crisis Response Team with her canine, Reagan and a NOVA Provisional Advocate. These roles have fortified a passion for connecting individuals and responders to support for recovery and resilience building before, during and after critical times.

    She aims to strengthen her community by sharing resources and empowering others to help themselves and those they serve. She enjoys giving back to many organizations including various Alaska organizations to support Veteran & Military health as well as trauma support agencies and first responders across Alaska to facilitate crisis intervention and the development of healthy coping mechanisms.


To see pictures of the important work (and adventurous lives) of our service-dogs-in-training, check out our Facebook.


  • 2016 Started canine assisted therapeutic intervention programs; Opened dedicated facility in Fairbanks
  • 2017 Started canine-assisted therapy program at the Mission; Started canine-assisted therapy program at Fairbanks Correctional Center; First Northwest Region Service Dog Graduation
  • 2018 Started Canine-Assisted Therapy in Anchorage.
  • 2019 Relocated operations to Anchorage
  • 2021 Opened new facility in Anchorage
Opened dedicated facility in Fairbanks

Our Partners

Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital
Weekly therapy sessions. Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital is an intensive, holistic treatment program dedicated to first responders, military Service Members and Veterans needing treatment for addiction and/or PTSD, and Service Member dependents for addiction.

Alaska VA Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program
Weekly therapy sessions at the VA Dom. The Dom Offers a structured setting that includes residential care for sheltered and unsheltered Veterans with multiple challenges, illnesses or rehabilitative care needs.

#pphReagan and #pphAndi getting ready to go Bark to School
#pphReagan and #pphAndi getting ready to go Bark to School
#pphReagan and #pphTank with our volunteers at a VFW event
#pphReagan and #pphTank with our volunteers at a VFW event

Caring Spirits, Serving Warriors

We Need Your Support

Donations to Paws for Purple Hearts can change a Warrior’s life from hopelessness to optimism.

Your generous, tax-deductible donation helps thousands of Warriors facing the visible and invisible wounds of war.  Our Canine Assisted Warrior Therapy helps them heal as they help others – all with the goal of raising top tier service dogs for Veterans and active duty Service Members with mobility and trauma challenges.



We place service dogs with Service Members and Veterans facing challenges such as:

Mobility issues. Our dogs can help with tasks such as: retrieving items, pushing buttons for elevators and doors, turning lights on/off, plus many more.

Diagnosed trauma-related conditions (PTSD or TBI). Our dogs help by performing a variety of tasks specifically designed to reduce symptom severity.

Through our thorough application process, our qualified staff determines if a PPH service dog will be a fit for your specific needs.


We place facility dogs with facility managers who work in care facilities that serve Service Members, Veterans, and/or military families. They are also placed with counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists (and other specialists) who serve Service Members and/or Veterans and wish to integrate a dog into their clients’ treatment plans. Facility dogs provide invaluable benefits to the populations they serve, but they do not meet the legal definition of a service dog and do not have public access rights outside of their assigned facility. Facilities must serve at least 50% of military-connected individuals.

Our Long History

Paws for Purple Hearts is the first program of its kind to offer therapeutic intervention for Veterans and active-duty military.

Therapeutic Intervention

Under the guidance of PPH instructors, Service Members engage with specially-bred Golden Retriever and Labrador puppies.


PTSD patient-trainers must overcome their emotional and affective numbness in order to heighten their tone of voice, bodily movements.

Donation Dollars at Work

With just $19/month gift you will ensure a future service dog has all of its vaccinations, training equipment, and of course toys to get started in their life altering education.

Your gift of any amount will be a tremendous help to our Service Dogs in Training. It costs $52/month in dog food alone for just one dog.

Paws for Purple Hearts Dogs are trained to the most exacting certification because our Veterans deserve the best, and thanks to you, they will never have to pay for any of our services. It costs more than $35,000 to raise just one dog to this high standard.

Contact Us

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