IAVA staff is hosting a new team member, DAPHNE, a service puppy-in-training from the paws4vets program of the nonprofit organization paws4people. As certified dog trainer, I am fostering DAPHNE for few months as she begins the training process to become an assistance dog for a veteran living with a disability. The paws4vets Assistance Dog Placement program serves veterans, active-duty service members or their dependents who have physical, neurological, psychiatric or emotional disabilities.
DAPHNE, a two month old Golden Retriever, is part of the IAVA Washington, D.C. office, simultaneously providing a morale boost to staff members as she learns to be a service dog.
While our military working dogs provide a clear and direct service in the field for our active duty military, our returning soldiers are also in need of the assistance, support and comfort provided by assistance animals. For service members who have experienced trauma during their service, readjusting to life stateside can be a struggle. PTSD and physical disabilities are among the most recognized challenges veterans face, and paws4vets provides an invaluable service to our returning warriors.
The paws4vets program is unique in that it is focusing on the rehabilitation of two populations, an inmate who will play a major role in training this dog to be an assistance dog and the veteran who will ultimately receive the dog. DAPHNE has begun her socialization with IAVA staff and will continue her training with an inmate taught to train assistance dogs and prepare them for the important work ahead of them.
I have personally met some of the veterans who have received dogs from this program and they are the first to tell you that this program and their dog saved their lives. The power of the human-animal bond is incredibly strong and these animals have time and again shown their immense power of healing. I’m thrilled to be a small part of this life-changing program.