On September 5, 2015 the Patriot Service Dogs graduation was at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Jeanne Coyne attended the event and were able to meet and speak with each of the Vets that received one of the service dogs our company sponsored.
As part of the graduation, each Veteran stood up and spoke a few minutes about their particular situation and how they had been suffering in one way or another since returning home from combat overseas. They each have had their service dog since January and had an opportunity to see how their dog would impact their life. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Jeanne said it was very touching to hear how well each Veteran was now doing since receiving their service dog and how their dog has totally impacted their life in a positive way. The dogs wake them when they see they are having a nightmare; they can sense when they are having a panic attack and quickly respond to calm them; they help turn on lights; retrieve items; etc.
After the Veterans spoke, Susan (one of the owners of Patriot Service Dogs) called up two women to the podium who had previously been inmates and participated in the WOOF (Women Offering Obedience and Friendship) program. The Patriot Service Dogs program uses women who are serving time at the Lowell Correctional Facility to help raise and train the dogs from the time they are puppies until they are teamed up with a Veteran. The women spoke about how being selected for the program had changed their lives. One woman had spent four years in the facility and during that time not one person visited her, no one wrote to her, she had absolutely no outside contact from anyone. She was selected for the WOOF program and given a puppy to raise and train. She told the audience how that experience totally changed who she was as a person and how it forever changed her life. To finally have something that loved her back, unconditionally. She said had it not been for this program, she would have left prison a hardened person. Instead, she left as a person that cares about something, that will forever want to have animals in her life, and will now be a contributor to society. Again, there was not a dry eye in the room.
Susan thanked their sponsors, including Old Town Trolley, for their invaluable contribution. Afterwards, Jeanne met with the three Veterans that received the dogs sponsored by OTT, Brett and Freedom, Don and Diego, and Joey and Valor. They were eternally grateful for the opportunity to be given a service dog and for the help the dogs have provided them. Jeanne said Brett put it best when he said “Freedom gave me my life back.”
Susan indicated to Jeanne that OTT provided enough money that there are actually two more dogs going through training now that we sponsored. And she hoped that the partnership could continue. They have a long list of Veterans waiting and are continuing to look for people that can dedicate the time and resources to training more dogs. They hope to eventually raise enough money to purchase a training facility and expand their services.
Susan said she looked forward to coming back to Old Town St. Augustine on Veterans Day with new dogs that are going through training.
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