November 11, 2022 — As we reflect on the selfless service of our veterans today, there is an army of caring individuals who donate their time in raising, evaluating, and matching the abilities and personalities of service and guide dogs to allow veterans to adapt better in their civilian lives. Intuitive dogs that can ease times of trauma; sturdy-built dogs to support wounded veterans to get up and out of chairs; observant dogs that can alert vision-impaired veterans about obstructions including those at their head elevations; and even consoling pets for children of 5-Star Military Families. It takes an army of volunteers, genetic experts, trainers, veterinarians and social ambassadors at the Southeastern Guide Dog campus located in Palmetto, FL. The equivalent hourly cost for preparing each dog for its professional placement is approximately $80,000. Additionally, there are foster families nationwide who will continue the training of the young dogs for about a year before returning to campus for final formal training prior to placement. It must be hard to give back each dog but the foster family is motivated to get their future hero into service; plus the family could return home with another young dog to begin the cycle again. One such hero is currently assigned to a bomb squad and during a demonstration, the dog found his foster mom in the audience and placed his front paws on her shoulders to lick her face. The officer signaled the dog to come back to duty.
We enjoyed a family excursion to their campus this week including a tour led by Teresa and Bob. It seemed like a fitting time to reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans and visit a place of hope that come with four paws, unspoken reassurance and limitless devotion, comfort and joy … the best of any hero!
Dana’s brother and wife, Kim, Trainer Keaton, Tour Guide Teresa (in the foreground taking the photo) with a Future Hero