Service Dogs in Training (SDiT)!
||Canine Trainers Suzanne and Michele with SDiTs Henry and Chancy
Earlier this month, Service Dogs in Training Henry and Chancy, acquired from Duty Dogs in Wyoming, joined the VMF family. Henry is a yellow Labrador retriever named for U.S. Army Sergeant William Henry Johnson, who enlisted in 1917 and was assigned to the infantry unit that later became the 369th Infantry Regiment, “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black regiment that helped pave the way for future African-American soldiers.
Sergeant Johnson was one of the first U.S. soldiers to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France’s highest award for valor. Severely wounded while serving overseas in World War I, he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996, the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002, and the Medal of Honor in 2015.
Chancy is a black Labrador retriever named for U.S. Marine Corps Major Jennifer Chancy, who served in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Major Chancy learned she had lung cancer after returning home from Afghanistan in 2011, where she had served as the executive for a Marine combat logistics battalion. She died in December 2012, at age 35.
Here is a little self-introduction from VMF’s newest pups, who will carry on the legacy of these service members:
“Hi! I am a 10 week-old yellow Labrador retriever service dog in training (SDiT). I met my puppy raiser, Jim, on January 28, 2018, when I arrived in Virginia after a long flight from my first home in Wyoming. Although I was sad to be away from my family at Duty Dogs, I was excited to be with Jim and meet his family. A former U.S. Secret Service K9 technician, Jim loves working with dogs and wanted to volunteer with an organization to give back to his community. In just the few weeks we’ve been together, we’ve done some training, gone to work every day, went to see the doctor at Catoctin Veterinary clinic, and we even visited the students at Goucher College, where I sat quietly for the National Anthem at a basketball game. I made all the students laugh when I fell asleep and snored really loudly!
Jim and I are excited to take this journey together as he helps me grow into a well-trained service dog, prepared to help our great veterans. We are looking forward to working with the wonderful trainers and other volunteers at Veterans Moving Forward. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to keep this great organization running, so Jim and I hope we can persuade you to join us – either by volunteering your time as a puppy raiser (where you will meet a fantastic puppy like me) or by making a donation to help Veterans Moving Forward secure more puppies like me for our veterans. Stay tuned for more of our adventures!”
“I’m Chancy! My puppy raiser, Mary, said she forgot what it was like to have a puppy in the house! She says my arrival reminded of her of when their oldest child came home from the hospital! Mary and her family had to get used to watching me all the time, to make sure I didn’t get into trouble. Now we have all gotten into a routine and everyone is a little more relaxed. Mary is amazed at how quickly I am learning new things! I’m also sleeping through the night, which makes everything easier for everyone! My “older sister” Jacky was used to being the only dog and felt a little put out, but now she wants to play with me!
At home, I have been working on some basic commands, such as walking on a leash, checking in with my raiser, and making sure I take care of business in the right places! I also love to play fetch and retrieve, although sometimes I bring a stick back instead!
Mary and I will attend class together every Wednesday morning at the VMF Training Facility in Dulles, and every other Sunday too. It’s busy, but we’re getting to know each other, which is really important to our working together over the next 18 months. I know there is a veteran somewhere who needs me, so it’s important that I learn all the skills required to be a service dog for VMF. I have a lot of help, between my raiser and her family, and the trainers and volunteers at VMF. But we really need more puppy raisers! And when Mary and her family travel or need to be away and can’t bring me, I’ll stay with a puppy sitter who has gone through training at VMF – that’s a really great way to see if being a puppy raiser is something you think you can do!”
In this issue:
Being a puppy raiser is hard work, but watching a puppy grow into a service dog is also fun and exciting. SDiT Grace, now almost four months old, has adjusted to her new home with puppy raiser Amanda and is learning the fundamental skills required of a service dog:
SDiT Grace is a really spirited and fun dog! She’s learning a lot every day – she loves her toys and games. Her favorite game is fetch, as she loves to retrieve things and often she will even drop them to play again! She is now reliably housetrained, and she is very good at sleeping through the night – if she wakes up she can put herself back to sleep without making a fuss.
Grace is still working on a bunch of important skills – our house is very quiet and secluded, and she has to be exposed to more animals and people, which means fun outings and quick trips. She has already made friends with the local donkey! Grace loves being the center of attention, but has also been able to (mostly) spend time on her settle mat in a room full of friends having dinner.
Grace’s favorite place to take a nap is at Amanda’s feet – and sometimes she stretches out with her feet behind her (which looks uncomfortable but apparently is not to her). But when she’s done sleeping it’s right back to fun and games!
Want to learn more about being a puppy raiser or a puppy sitter for VMF and how YOU can help make a difference in the life of a veteran?
How do VMF service dogs change lives?
Veteran Maureen, a Women’s Army Corps and U.S. Army veteran, is grateful to Service Dog Prince for the many ways he has helped her move forward since they began their journey together in April 2016. Maureen and Prince – whom she calls the “Princely Prince – King of Service Dogs” – are an inseparable team. When she recently decided to purchase a new car, Maureen went to the dealership and told the salesperson that her service dog, Prince, needed a new car. During the test drive, she and Prince sat in the back while the salesperson drove. How else could she tell if Prince was comfortable in the car?
Maureen and Prince also perform stand-up comedy together. In March 2016, just before acquiring Prince, Maureen enrolled in Comedy Bootcamp, a stand-up comedy class offered by the Armed Services Arts Partnership, a non-profit organization for veterans and military families. She says, “when I told my 22 year-old son about the program, he assured me that I was not at all funny.” But she participated in the program because her cognitive rehabilitation specialist wanted her to see that living with traumatic brain injury didn’t have to mean isolation (and, she says, she wanted to prove her son wrong!). Prince was right there with her.
In her day to day activities, Maureen says what she appreciates most about Prince is his “helping me balance, and his ability to help me up when I fall – this has made me more confident going out in the community, whether to medical appointments or the stand-up comedy circuit. His ability to pick things up and bring them to me has lowered my risk of falling; and he remembers where our hotel room is, when I forget – all by scent.
Prince encourages me to get out of the house and be more physically active. Grooming Prince has strengthened my fine motor skills and my concentration; and when he looks at me with an intense loving gaze, I just melt.”
Maureen is also a staunch advocate for people with service dogs: when talking to Uber drivers, she asks if they have transported people with service dogs before. If Prince is the first-ever service dog in their car, she gives the driver a “party favor:” Prince’s VMF business card, and a card that explains the federal law regarding service animals.
Service Dog Prince’s puppy raiser, Donna, keeps in touch with Maureen and has enjoyed watching them grow into an inseparable team. Along with VMF’s Veteran Coordination Team, many of VMF’s puppy raisers remain in close contact with the veterans with whom a dog they raised is placed – just more way that VMF helps veterans move forward.
Donor Updates and Upcoming Events
||SDiT Mickey & Therapy Dog Max at Kappa Sigma Event
Veterans Moving Forward is extremely grateful to our platinum sponsor, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, for its on-going support! Kappa Sigma recently made a generous donation of $25,000 to VMF, which will help us acquire, train, and place more service dogs with veterans this year.
Thank you, Kappa Sigma! We can’t do what we do without amazing supporters like you!
Freedom Bank Foundation donated $3,400 – representing $200 for every VA loan closed by Freedom Bank Mortgage during the last quarter of 2017. Please consider using Freedom Bank for your mortgage needs, as every VA loan they close creates a gift to VMF! (Pictured here: VMF Director of Development Jeanette Townsend and SDiT Otis, and VMF Executive Director JP Stevens and SDiT Eagle, accepting check from Stefan Goldfaden, Senior Mortgage Loan Officer, Freedom Bank of Virginia)
Thank you, Freedom Bank Foundation!
Veterans Moving Forward has been selected to participate in the Greater Washington Innovation Awards Showcase as a nominee in the Community Impact category! The Greater Washington Innovation Awards and Innovation Showcase are the premier events celebrating the thought leadership, innovation and creativity of the individuals and organizations in select industries in the Greater Washington metro area.
During the Showcase, an impressive group of nominees will host display booths showcasing their innovations and deliver in-person presentations in front of a live audience and Selection Panel.
The Showcase takes place on Friday, March 2 from 7:30AM – 11:00AM at the Falls Church Fairview Park Marriott. VMF will present from 8:50am – 8:55am.
Please come to the Showcase and show your support for VMF!
For more information about the Showcase, please click here.
VMF needs you! We are actively seeking volunteers in the following areas:
- Puppy raisers
- Canine Team Administrative Assistant (requires proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel)
- Grant Writing and Research
- Community Outreach and Liaison
- Fundraising Research
- Development and Donor Support
- Marketing support: TV/Radio/Print
- Social Media Coordinator
- School Liaison (for community service projects)
- Administrative Support (requires proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel)
- Assistant Veteran Coordinator
click here to contact us if you can help!