This week’s “From the Dog’s Paw” comes to you from my human friend Valerie Rovira, a volunteer with Operation Paws for Homes. Here is her story:
Every 180 minutes, a U.S, veteran commits suicide.
Every 11 seconds, an animal is getting euthanized.
It is an unfortunate truth, one that many Americans are not fully aware of. Fortunately, however, there are organizations looking to change this and save the lives of veterans and animals throughout the United States. Two amazing programs working together on this life-saving mission are Semper K9 and Operation Paws for Homes.
In 2004, Christopher Baity was working as a Marine Corp MWD (military war dog) at Henderson Hall, the Headquarters of the Marine Corps (HQMC), when he was approached by the provost marshal about going to Iraq on a combat mission. Baity did not take long to think about it and as a result, he went on to serve a total of six overseas deployments, four of which were combat deployments in the Middle East. During these deployments, Baity used his experience as an MWD handler to work with dogs and search for enemy bombs and IEDs. While these deployments were difficult and took a toll on Baity’s mental health, leaving him with bouts of PTSD, he has no regrets about his decision to deploy. His own struggle with PTSD is what inspired him to eventually create his own nonprofit organization, Semper K9, in 2014. His mission is to train shelter dogs to work as service and support dogs for veterans struggling with PTSD and other service-related injuries.
Due to dogs not always getting spayed and neutered, animal shelters tend to get crowded very quickly. While they work hard to push for adoption, it is not always an easy feat, and it unfortunately leads to these shelters having to put down many of the dogs that live there. Operation Paws for Homes (OPH) is a nonprofit rescue organization whose goal is to get these dogs out of high-kill shelters and find them loving, permanent homes. The dogs that come through OPH primarily come from shelters in Virginia and the Carolinas, but they also occasionally get dogs from their partners in India and Turks and Caicos. OPH provides the dogs they rescue with any necessary medical care, including spaying and neutering, before placing them with foster families until they can be adopted.
Sometimes, though, puppies that go through OPH are given the incredible opportunity to work with Semper K9, to see if they are good service dog material. If the puppy meets Semper’s standards, OPH gives the puppies to Semper free of charge. These lucky puppies will then get to join other dogs in training with Semper K9 until they graduate at around one to two years old, when they are assigned to their veteran.
Brothers Ortho and Caesar are two Labrador Retriever puppies from OPH who were recently selected to join Semper’s training program. Once they join, they will work with Baity and other Semper trainers to learn all sorts of important skills that will help them be the best service and support dogs they can possibly be for their future owners.
A service dog may not sound like much, but to struggling veterans and their families, they can become a symbol of hope and recovery, giving them the courage to return to normal, civilian lives. Semper K9 and OPH are working together for an incredible goal – saving the lives of veterans and dogs. OPH provides the puppies to Semper free of charge, who then do the same for the veterans. But, the training and care of these dogs costs both organizations a lot of money, and they depend a great deal on fundraising and donor contributions to be able to keep doing what they are doing. For those who want to help, you can choose to sponsor Ortho (https://ophrescue.org/dogs/6471) and Caesar (https://ophrescue.org/dogs/6473) through OPH or you can donate to Semper K9 (www.semperk9.org) to help cover the costs of training and caring for the puppies. This way, these organizations can continue with the goal to help as many veterans and dogs as possible.
Noah is Pawthor of www.fromthedogspaw.com- A blog about dog/cat adoption, humor, dog adventures and facts about dogs and cats. Pawlease follow us by email to enjoy our adventures.
Noah is the Dog to his human, Allen Pearson, Dog Photographer and Writer, www.allenpearsonsphotos.com, www.facebook.com/AllenPearsonsPhotos.com, www.instagram.com/fromthedogspaw, www.twitter.com/AllensPhotos