New Faces at WCC

Warrior Canine Connection’s pack has grown! We are excited to introduce you to two new members of our team.

Michele Tate
Michele joined WCC in mid-November 2021 as a service dog training instructor at WCC’s program in Asheville, North Carolina. She has vast experience working with a wide variety of breeds and temperaments, as well as service and rescue organizations. In her role, she will oversee the puppy program and work closely with WCC’s highly valued puppy parents.

Michele graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She then received her training at Starmark Dog Training Academy, where she specialized in task training and behavior modification.

Prior to coming to WCC, Michele spent four years working with service dogs and Veterans, so this is not new territory to her. She says the military population is one she’s always been interested in supporting, as she has a partner who is a Veteran and family members who are Veterans and active-duty Service Members.

“It’s been amazing to see how quickly WCC’s purpose-bred dogs pick up on skills, how calm and easy going they are,” said Michele. “Of course, they have well-rounded lives with puppy parents, exposure to people, sounds, and other stimuli from the time they’re only a few weeks old and then formalized training … but it’s been magical to watch that come together.”

Michele has two dogs, Brin and Red, and when not at WCC, she enjoys swimming, riding her bike, cooking, and reading.


Suzanne Brown
In late November, we also welcomed Suzanne Brown as a service dog training instructor who will work in a part-time capacity at our Healing Quarters in Boyds, Maryland. Suzanne graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a bachelor’s in Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering, and she earned advanced engineering degrees at the University of Michigan. She served over 25 years active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard before retiring as a Captain in 2020.

Suzanne has volunteered at WCC for the past few years and served in almost every volunteer role from whelping/puppy watcher to puppy parent and she helped coordinate WCC’s Inaugural Ruff Mutter event.

She has extensive experience with the MBTR program, where she discovered her passion for training service dogs, both as a participant and running WCC’s Extended Veteran Program for fellow Veterans who complete the MBTR program and want to continue training service dogs for fellow Veterans.

“I came to know WCC at a really rough time in my life and they really helped me through that,” says Suzanne. “I have seen firsthand the impact that working with the dogs has as well as the difference a service dog can make on a Veteran’s life. WCC’s programs, both the placement of service dogs and utilizing military members and Veterans to help train the service dogs in training, have not only helped me but so many military members and Veterans in their recovery process. Those invisible wounds are real and it’s hard to explain but the dogs have such a tremendously positive impact. I came in at the right time, and now I want to actively help others through WCC’s mission.”

Outside of work, Suzanne enjoys spending time with Baxter, her 14-year-old pet Golden Retriever. Suzanne also used to compete in triathlons and says she is focusing on becoming more active. Suzanne is also a volunteer coach for adaptive/para-swimming and triathlons.

End of Year Giving: A New Family Holiday Tradition

Stephanie and Christopher Wilson consider themselves lucky; they have a roof over their heads, good jobs, and two healthy daughters, Madeline, 10, and Lydia, 8. As they talked about the upcoming holiday season as a family, they realized there’s nothing they really “need” but know that’s not the case for many others, which sparked an idea — and the start of a new family tradition.  

Each daughter was given two $10 gift certificates to Global Giving so they could choose a cause they wanted to support to help others. Low and behold, Warrior Canine Connection was one of the selections for Lydia. An animal-lover, she selected WCC and a second organization that supports horses.  

“It felt good because it was the gift that mommy was giving us to give to something else, so it felt the gift was to give, and I feel like giving is sometimes better than receiving,” said Lydia. “It just felt good to help out and I hope I get to do it again next year.” 

Her sister, Madeline, knew she wanted to do something to help children, so she selected a food bank and a second organization that supports rescue dogs. 

“It was my first time, but it was exciting and also hard because there are so many great causes I wanted to support,” said Madeline. “It was really nice … I’ve made presents and gotten presents before, but it felt really nice to give something to someone or an animal that really needed it. I mean, I just felt it was really nice to be part of something that was helping people.” 

Pretty sage words for 8 and 10-year-olds. And mom Stephanie, couldn’t be prouder. 

“They were really excited, it was really cool, they were very excited about looking through the different nonprofits and were really interested in watching the videos and learning about different organizations,” said Stephanie. “Lydia turned to me and said ‘mama, this really was a cool present.’ This was definitely a winner, and we will keep doing this.”

The fact that they both chose animal-related organizations came as no surprise to Stephanie, as they have a well-loved 4.5-year-old Lab, Skye, at home. 

“He is cute … and he wags his tail all the time, even when he’s throwing up,” shared Lydia. (Side note: Mom explained through laughter that Skye is perfectly healthy and rarely gets sick but that some things just stick out in children’s minds.)  

Madeline added, “I think he [Skye] has a very cute, very sweet personality … he’s loving and sweet but also a little bit bumbling. He’s a Lab, he loves his people and his food.” 

Of course, both Madeline and Lydia are also excited about another annual tradition — Santa’s upcoming visit. Judging by their interest in helping others, it’s safe to say both of them will be on his “nice list.” 

End-of-year giving of any amount makes a huge impact for many nonprofits, including WCC. All donations are tax-deductible and help WCC breed, train and provide highly skilled assistance dogs to wounded Veterans and Military Families at absolutely no cost to them. If you would like to follow the Wilsons’ lead, and start your own year-end giving tradition, visit  

WCC’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner! Have you made your list and checked it twice? We are sharing some great gift ideas that your friends and family will not only love but that will also support WCC’s programs by purchasing at the same time.

WCC 2021 Ornament 
An annual tradition since 2014, this year’s ornament design features a round metal enamel design showcasing “10” for WCC’s milestone anniversary. The ornament includes a blue ribbon for ease of hanging. 

WCC 2022 Cuteness Calendars
Ready to turn the page on 2021? You’re in luck, as the WCC 2022 calendars are also available, complete with adorable photos of some of the lovable WCC pups you’ve come to know and love. 

Paracord Bracelet
This unisex bracelet isn’t only good-looking, it’s functional! A paracord bracelet can be used to tie up gear, make shelter, fish for food, and various other uses, which makes them extremely useful in the outdoors. Its nylon construction can withstand nature’s elements, making it the go-to survival tool in emergency preparation kits.  

To check out these great items and others, visit WCC’s online store here 

Thank You to Our Generous Donors

Wow! Thanks to the generosity and support from hundreds of donors, Warrior Canine Connection raised $40,627 during Giving Tuesday. We would like to say a heartfelt *thank you* to all the amazing donors who helped make this year’s day of giving such a success! 

If you’re not familiar with its observance, Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past nine years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity. 

Thanks to all of you, these much-appreciated funds will support WCC’s No-Fail Mission to Service Members and Veterans with visible and invisible wounds. 

However, our work is far from done. More than 500,000 Veterans are suffering from the invisible wounds of warand WCC’s unique form of animal-assisted therapy and placement of highly trained service dogs is proven to help Veterans in need. Help us assist our nation’s recovering Warriors by donating now. 

Leaving a Legacy

A former international model, world traveler, government employee, and more, Kay, 84, has packed eight-plus decades of adventure, relationships, and lessons in her life’s journey.

With an infectious sense of humor, Kay jokingly muses over her new adventures — adapting to macular degeneration and hearing issues. But in the next breath, her tone turns grateful for Cindy, her sister, who has been helping her adapt to her new life changes.

Kay says a lot of people don’t like to talk about it, but age has given her comfort with her own mortality. It’s also given her cause to think about what she wants to leave behind when she’s no longer around. That’s why she elected to leave a portion of her estate to Warrior Canine Connection in her will.

“I was made aware of Warrior Canine Connection by my nephew who is a retired Marine,” said Kay. “He talked to me about it because I’m at a stage of my life where I need to make those plans. I’m grateful to leave something behind and to leave the money with those who I think are going to spend it well and do good with it, and I’m tickled to death to support this organization in particular.”

Military service has strong roots in Kay’s family. She was married to Clark, who has since passed, but spent his career as an engineer in the Marine Corps. Her nephew (Cindy’s son) was an explosive ordnance disposal tech in the Marines. And her oldest great nephew is currently attending The U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It’s a population that has not been served as well as they should have been,” said Kay. “We are a fairly small family, and we have ties to and history and support of military service, so we’ve always felt strongly about the military and helping others. I’m from a small town, and we have small-town values, which usually involves helping out other people … we like to look out, rather than look in.”

On her many visits, Cindy totes along her laptop so she and Kay can enjoy watching the WCC live puppy cam on together — a simple pleasure that brings both comfort and joy.

“We’ve had the puppy cam on all day … we’re watching the little dickens that became king of the hill, started an uproar with the others, and then they all went to sleep,” says Kay chuckling.

Kay says she’s lived a happy, interesting life, and she’s pleased to not only chat and share stories but to also know a piece of her will be passed along after she’s gone.

“It’s my hope that my story might encourage other people to do the same,” said Kay. “It’s wonderful to see the money go to where it will do good.”

Discover how easy it is to support Warrior Canine Connection beyond a lifetime. To learn more, visit

Share your Favorite WCC Memory!

It’s been 10 years (10 YEARS!) since WCC was formed. In that time, more than 5,300 Warriors have benefited from its Mission Based Trauma Recovery training program, and 92 assistance dogs have been placed with Service Members and Veterans to date.

All along the journey, we’ve been privileged to have the support of puppy parents, partners, and volunteers, all who have helped make our mission possible. Over the past decade, countless “connections” have been built and memories made.

Do you have a favorite story, photo or memory to share about your connection to WCC? We’d love to hear about it!

Please help us celebrate our 10-year anniversary by sharing your favorite memory with us. Simply drop us a line here and tell us about it.

Thank you for participating! We are excited to continue making memories with you over the next 10 years and beyond!

Happy Tails of WCC Release Dogs

Eighteen service dogs from Warrior Canine Connection were placed with Veterans as part of its 2021 graduating class—its largest class to date. It’s an impressive number. But what may be even more impressive is WCC’s commitment to ensuring its dogs are best suited for their roles. 

What many don’t readily see at graduation are the dogs who go on to serve Veterans and their families in a different role. We often refer to them as “career-change” or “release” dogs. Words such as “flunky” or “failure” simply are not part of WCC’s vocabulary. 

There often comes a point with each service dog-in-training when the question is asked, has this puppy reached his/her fullest potential (for the type of work we’re raising them for)? Sometimes that question comes up sooner than later. WCC trainers and puppy parents do their best to prepare these pups for future work as a service dog, but the day will come when it’s up to the dog to carry forward. And the truth is—not all will—and that’s okay.

“WCC takes a lot of pride in serving our Veterans but also ensuring the dogs are happy,” says Krista Vega, WCC puppy parent. “It really is about the overall health and well-being of the dogs, and I love that approach to it.” 

Krista Vega had fostered dogs for other organizations in the past and got involved with WCC as a puppy parent in 2020. A total dog lover who has had Labs as pets in the past, she was excited about becoming a puppy parent.  

She said one of the first lessons as a puppy parent was that there was no guarantee the dog she would help raise would become a service dog. Sure enough, six months into her puppy parent responsibilities, Subin, her dog, was career-changed. Krista says she had to remind herself that it was nothing she did, rather Subin had chosen another route—still helping a Veteran and his family, but in a different way—as a pet. (Photo of both to the right.)

“I just loved the care that was taken when he was career changed, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that for future dogs,” said Krista. “They [the WCC trainers] take special care to make sure the dogs are a match for the program—the decks are not stacked. Now, I get to see how happy Subin is with his military family. He has little humans in the house and playmates, and he’s just so happy. He provides companionship and love to his family, and it’s a joy to watch him thrive.”  

Kevin Simpson, director of service dog training programs for WCC, says the nonprofit raises each dog with the future goal of being a service dog, but ultimately, the dogs choose their own careers. 

“We aren’t raising robots here,” said Simpson. “All of these dogs have their own strengths, challenges, and personalities, which are all an integral part of their training and matching process. Some dogs may be released for a medical issue, others might be reactive, and still others might be better suited as a working detection dog, and for many—it’s being a pet—living out their days with the Veteran families. In the end, the dogs are happy and they bring joy to those they’re placed with. We like to say they’ve been ‘honorably discharged.’” 

Simpson added, “We place high standards on the dogs we match as public-access service dogs. While some really enjoy working for and serving their Veteran, others are simply not meant for that role. It may be that they need more time adjusting to new environments and have trouble focusing on the needs of their handler. Some may simply have too low initiative or find themselves needing more support than they’re able to give. Other times it can be a health-related reason the dog is not meant for service work.” 

Diane Cadenhead has had a hand in helping to raise seven WCC assistance dogs. WCC’s Charlie, one of the first dogs she was a puppy parent for, now provides tremendous support as a service dog for a Veteran and his family. It was the same story for WCC dog Judy. Both are public access dogs serving their Veterans. But not every dog she has parented has become a public access service dog. Diane has raised five career change dogs, one for medical reasons, the others by the puppy’s decision to better serve their veteran in a different capacity than a public access service dog.

“I work with WCC to interview puppy parents, and I can tell you that a career change is still a success,” said Diane. “We have a lot of Veterans. Not all have special needs or a disability, but all can benefit from these amazing dogs. Sometimes they go to a Veteran who might have a child who has a need who can benefit from a dog of this caliber. A career change is never a failure … every effort is made to ensure the dog goes on to serve a Veteran—just in a different capacity.”  

Wendy Notari, a WCC service dog training instructor and a three-time puppy parent, has raised two dogs who have been released, and currently has a third pup.  

“Every dog I know who has been released is living their best life,” said Wendy. “And that’s thanks to the puppy parents who have helped raise them. They put in the same amount of time, love, and dedication as those who raise pups who become service dogs. WCC truly sees each dog as an individual and strives to find the placement that best captures their personality, aptitudes, and connection to their new person or family—whether they’re placed as a service dog or a loving pet. You can’t ask for anything better than that.” 

Warrior Canine Connection Holding 2021 Virtual Graduation Ceremony September 25

Class of 2021 expected to be WCC’s largest to-date

Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 25 to join Warrior Canine Connection in congratulating its 2021 class of Veteran Service Dog Teams! The virtual ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern Time and can be viewed on WCC’s Facebook page. 

The ninth annual graduation will feature WCC’s largest graduating class to date, with more than a dozen Veterans and dogs included in the announcement ceremony. The celebration will include powerful Veterans stories, adorable dog footage, awards, special acknowledgments, and more! 

“Honoring graduates through our commencement ceremony is one of WCC’s most important traditions,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director, Warrior Canine Connection. “Even though they won’t physically be walking across the stage that day, we are privileged to share their stories and achievements with their families, friends, and colleagues, as well as WCC’s dedicated volunteers, supporters and extended pack thanks to modern-day technology.”  

Following the virtual graduation, WCC will host an in-person, post-graduation celebration at its Healing Quarters in Boyds, Maryland—set to begin at 12:30 p.m. E.T. 

Stay tuned to WCC’s social channels for additional information! 

Q&A with

Warrior Canine Connection recently caught up with Courtney Huq, social media director for, the host site of WCC’s live puppy cam. We chatted with her about the partnership between the two nonprofits, how the puppy cam came to be, as well as some other fun tidbits.’s mission is to bring people closer to nature and to champion the selfless acts of others. The platform currently boasts 166 live webcams and growing, seen across four continents (North America, Africa, Asia and Europe), along with 10+ million Facebook followers.

Below are some highlights from our conversation.

1. has been a great champion for WCC. Can you share a bit of the history of the organization’s support of Veterans?

Answer: Our founder, Charlie Annenberg, he’s always been a champion of Veteran-related causes dating back to when he was making documentaries tied to philanthropic initiatives. He also has a love of dogs and it all tied together. He thought training service dogs for Veterans was a beautiful and brilliant idea, and the idea was born.

2. When and why were WCC’s puppies added to And how has it enriched your platform?

Answer: We first got connected with WCC through Rick Yount (WCC’s founder and executive director). At the time, Rick and Meg Olmert (WCC’s director of research) approached us and told us about WCC. The more we learned, the more we thought it was an amazing pairing of war Veterans who might be dealing with mental issues related to their military service with their pairing to service dogs. We got connected in 2011 and came online in 2012. WCC was the first puppy cam on

There are currently six total puppy cams and three or four on and off with active litters on our platform.

3. We know puppies and all dogs, in general, are fantastic. But in your own words, what makes puppies so special and such a huge attraction on the puppy cam?

Answer: Aside from the fact that everybody loves a puppy—unless you’re a monster [laughs], you just automatically see them and go “aww.” I agreed with the first pitch Meg Olmert ever gave us—it’s an automatic chemical serotonin response, and I think that’s true of all the cameras we have; there’s just something about puppies that just comforts people and offers them a little bit of therapy.

4. Did you anticipate the reach the WCC puppy cam has had?

Answer: When we launched the puppy cam, we didn’t realize the reach. It was probably one of the more popular cameras immediately when we first started incorporating it, and it just grew from there and we continue to add cameras of organizations that we believe in.


5. What’s the coolest/most touching story you’ve heard from someone who watched the puppy cam?

Answer: There have been A LOT over the years. The most touching stories to me are when people approach us and say either ‘I have a terminal illness’ or ‘my close relative has a terminal illness and these puppy cameras are the only brightness of my day-to-day.’ That’s powerful. The joy the puppies bring is so meaningful … there’s been more than one situation; it’s not a one-off, it happens a lot.

6. What would you like people to know about that they may not already know from watching the live streams?

Answer: I’d like to think a lot of people know but we sort of tuck this in the background—that there is a philanthropic element to every single camera. We don’t just partner with organizations because we want to show a cute animal or a pretty landscape. There’s a reason behind everything. We want to make sure WCC and other organizations have funding to do their work; we have them on the website because we believe in their missions.

7. In your opinion, has there been a “favorite” litter to date or one that has stood out to you over others?

Answer: Definitely, I want to say the launch litters were the most popular, like Holly’s Half Dozen. Holly was an immensely popular dog and her puppies were such a big deal. They sort of looped everyone into this addiction of watching the joy and sharing the joy of watching puppies whenever you wanted to.

I was sorry to hear of Holly’s recent passing; her legacy left an impact on a lot of people, including the puppies of hers who were placed as service dogs.

8. Have you followed the progress/development of any of the puppies who’ve made appearances on the puppy cam?

Answer: A lot of them have Facebook pages, and I do like a lot of those pages. We run Dog Bless You, so we share stories there and enjoy seeing what the dogs are doing.

9. Is there anything we didn’t ask that you would like to share?

Answer: Only that we really value our partnership with WCC, and it’s been really inspiring over the years watching them grow as an organization. And it is well-deserved progress that they’ve made.

You can watch the WCC live puppy cam on here.

2021 Virtual Graduation

Mark Your Calendar Now for Warrior Canine Connection’s Graduation Celebration on Saturday, September 25, 2021!

WCC happily invites current and past graduates, their parents, caregivers, family, and everyone who wants to rally behind this larger-than-ever graduating class, to join us for an inspiring online celebration.

For those who wish to continue the celebration from online to in-person, WCC will also host a post-graduation ceremony reception later that day. Please refer to your local, State of Maryland, and Montgomery County guidelines as they relate to vaccinations, travel, and any restrictions before booking and planning your trip.

The Virtual Graduation Ceremony starts online, Saturday, Sept. 25th at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. The Post-Graduation Reception will follow at the WCC Healing Quarters in Boyds, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 25th at 12:30 p.m., Eastern Time.

Click here for a digital version of our Graduation Program to follow along during our live event.