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Patriot Paws graduation pairs veterans with service dogs

Patriot PAWS service dogs and their chosen veterans celebrate their union on Graduation Day. Photo by BRN Media.

(ROCKWALL, TX – Oct 5, 2015) Trainers and staff of Rockwall-based Patriot PAWS saw their hard work come to fruition Friday, Oct. 2, when the organization officially united five of its trained service dogs with a group of American veterans during a public Graduation Day ceremony.

A standing room only crowd gathered as Patriot PAWS celebrated the successful pairing of the veterans and their respective service dogs:

Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws.

US Army Specialsit E-4 Tobias Kicker from Trussville, AL with Service Dog Kal

Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws

US Navy MS3/E-4 Christopher Koonce from Wichita Falls, TX with Service Dog Camo

Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws

US Army MSG E-8 Edwin Montalvo from Canyon Lake, TX with Service Dog Anne

Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws

US Army Specialist E-4 Eddie Roman from Temple, TX with Service Dog Pilot

Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws

US Air Force A1C Jeremy Webb from San Antonio, TX with Service Dog Papi

Perhaps a post on the Patriot PAWS Facebook page says it best: “Today 5 amazing veterans received their service dogs and started their new lives filled with the hope that these equally amazing dogs will help them to return to some semblance of the lives they sacrificed to keep us free. The day began with 5 nervous veterans waiting for the moment they have prayed for for so long. There were tears and laughter and great gratitude that we had the honor to get to know these 5 American heroes. Toby, Chris, Jeremy, Eddie and Edwin, we salute you. Welcome to our family.”

Established in 2006 as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Patriot PAWS trains and provides service dogs of the highest quality at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities and post traumatic stress in order to help restore their physical and emotional independence. The dogs are trained with the goal to increase self-sufficiency for these individuals and provide assistance in accomplishing daily tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible, such as picking up and retrieving items, providing perimeter checks, opening and closing doors, presenting a calming effect to ward off fear, and many others.

An outing to Costco helped expose the dog and veteran teams to different kinds of environments that they may frequent together. Photo courtesy of Patriot Paws.

Each of the veterans had the chance to work with all of the dogs during the week prior to graduation and was then formally paired with his new life service companion during an emotional Matching Day on Friday, Sept. 25. According to Patriot PAWS Trainer Jerry Owens, the veterans and dogs are paired based on compatibility and also by which dog best serves the needs of the veteran.

Dogs and veterans get to know each other prior to Graduation Day. Photo by Austin Wells.

“Basically the dogs are bonding with the veteran they like,” Owens said. “We let the dogs pick their veteran.”

Patriot PAWS also entered into a partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide an opportunity for male and female inmates to volunteer and assist in training their service dogs. The program has successfully helped provide the male and female inmates of the William R. Boyd Unit in Teague, Texas and the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville, Texas with a job that allows them to serve their sentence while learning a career trade and giving back to the community.

The Patriot PAWS facility was packed with supporters to witness the Graduation Day ceremonies. Photo by BRN Media.

The organization recently received a grant to build brand new state-of-the-art kennels out behind its current building located at 254 Ranch Trail, which will allow room for 16 dogs and an  additional seven dogs in quarantine. When new puppies are brought to the facility, the organization usually keeps them in quarantine for five to seven days to make sure they don’t have fast-spreading diseases such as Kennel Cough before they let them out with the other dogs. The dogs take about two and half years to train at the cost of around $27,000 – $33,000 per dog.

Dogs and their veterans bond on a whole new level. Photo by Austin Wells.

“We’ve currently got room for 10 dogs here,” Owens said. “We have two units in the women’s prison down in Gatesville that train dogs for us. The Boyd Unit trains our PTSD dogs for us, which are older dogs and mainly rescue dogs. We’re trying to branch out to a federal prison in Texarkana we hope will train dogs for us, too.”

As a nonprofit, Patriot PAWS could always use donations and more volunteers to help raise puppies or work in its administration and fundraising programs. Those interested in getting involved may contact Patriot PAWS at 972-772-3282. For more information visit PatriotPAWS.org.

Story by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News staff writer and reporter. 

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