Helping an Amazing Group on My Hike
My wife will tell you I’m not the best multitasker. I will admit hiking that the AT alone is a misnomer. What both these statements have in common is that it takes a team effort to be successful. Hiking the trail and maintaining a blog and communicating to family and friends will take a strong home base—enter my bride of 32 years—Denise. She will help me with my multitasking, bounce boxes, and keep things running at the home base. There will be days alone with my early start, but other hikers won’t be far behind or ahead. I will meet amazing like-minded folks who are on their epic adventure too. Though I may shy away from hiking groups, we are all there for each other, support, help, encouragement, and inspiration—essentially never alone.
My wife and I wanted to not only share this journey with friends and family, but to help a cause or group on our way. We both have deep respect and admiration for our veterans, law enforcement, and first responders; their sacrifice and service are nothing short of amazing, as well as their families too. We are also huge dog lovers; our last three dogs were all rescues, and you could easily argue who rescued who. The idea of a group that somehow represents both seemed out of reach till Denise found a local group called Paws of War (PoW), a nonprofit 501 (c) based in Palm Coast, one town from where we live in Florida. They have their roots in New York as well. This amazing group finds service dogs at shelters, and evaluates their temperament, how they interact with people and other pets as well as their age, general health, their eagerness to please a handler are all considered during the evaluation process prior to adopting and training. This organizations motto, really sums it all up; “Helping Both Ends of the Leash.”
Then each dog is carefully matched to their new partner; sometimes it takes a try or two to make a perfect match and the dog that didn’t match will surely find its match with another handler. Their training program meets regularly and the goal is for handlers to participate in the training—very hands on. Then specific training is worked on depending on individual needs. It takes anywhere from seven to 18 months to train and certify each dog. PoW is comprised of some amazing volunteers that unselfishly donate their time and expertise saving shelter dogs and providing service, training, and independence to veterans, law enforcement and first responders. PoW is a nonprofit that thrives on the generosity of donations and the strong support of volunteers. PoW pays for adoption expenses, transport, vaccines, training, dog vests, and incidentals like food, gas money, and travel expenses to the handler to attend training. The estimated cost per dog from adoption to certification of their service dog is about $5,000.
A few Wednesdays ago, Denise and I traveled to Bunnell to the AMVETS hall and were able to meet with the PoWs group and watch firsthand several training techniques as the handlers worked with their dogs. It was a beautiful experience and the fellowship was incredible. We had meet with the chapter president, coordinator, a few handlers, dogs, and volunteers a few months ago to develop a relationship. We were invited to join the group and I gave a presentation of my hike and how I wanted to help this organization. There was lively dialogue about many issues each person faced with their service dogs; the hot topic seemed to be the lack of etiquette from the public as it related to service dogs. The dogs are all identified as service dogs on their vests, they often have “do not pet” signage, and some actually have patches stating their role, ie, PTSD service dog. People may ask to pet or just start petting the dogs, this is very disruptive and unsettling as they have a specific job and role for their handler. The most impressive part to us was the importance and significance of how the dogs worked, presented themselves and PoW every time they put their vest on.
Consider the following facts; Every day 18 US veterans commit suicide. Every eight seconds, one animal is put to death in a US shelter. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 750,000 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 100,000 sought mental health care. Half of those were diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The Paws of War Mission
To train and place shelter dogs to serve and provide independence to our United States military veterans, law enforcement and first responders. For those who suffer from emotional effects of war, or job-related PTSD and /or TBI (Traumatic brain injury). In turn, veterans, law enforcement and first responders can experience the therapeutic benefits and love that only an animal can bring.
For more information on Paws of War, to identify a shelter animal or aid in requesting a dog, please go to:
Phone (386) 538-5100
The video is Winnie
8 Wakefield Place. Palm Coast, FL 32164
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