Tag Archive for: Kevin Rumley

Warrior Canine Connection’s Innovative Service Dog Training Program Celebrates 5-Year Milestone at Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court

Veterans Train Service Dogs as Part of Their Own Recovery

Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) is celebrating a milestone—five years since it has partnered with the Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) to provide service dog training as part of its community service options for Veteran participants.

Veterans involved in the VTC programming are often required to complete a set number of community service hours. The dog training — offered through WCC — is one of the options on the docket. Training takes place on a weekly basis at the courthouse and Veterans can ​participate within the WCC program for the duration of their VTC commitment.

Judge Marvin Pope, who has presided over the program since its inception and is a dog lover himself, says he knows the powerful role dogs can play as a friend, companion and confidant.

“When Warrior Canine Connection became a possibility for Veteran Treatment Court, I knew that this was a unique opportunity to give our Veteran clients this “link” to something they may not have experienced before, plus bond them to a “personality” that is faithful, friendly, and most importantly “forgiving” no matter what the client may or may not have done in the past,” said Judge Pope. “I have seen this work so well for so many of our Veteran clients. I want to continue this relationship with Warrior Canine Connection and VTC forever.”

VTC participants learn to train service dogs for their fellow Warriors. In doing so, Veterans can also benefit from skills development in communication, confidence building, accountability, emotional regulation and patience to promote an act of service while receiving a therapeutic benefit. Since its inception, Veteran participants have logged more than 1,900 community service hours.

“I always looked forward to working with the dogs; learning how to train them,” shared one VTC graduate. “I like who I am when I get to be with the dogs. I think the dogs understood me even when I couldn’t understand myself. They helped me graduate from the VTC. I want to work with animals and give back.”

Amy Guidash, WCC Asheville program manager and liaison to the Buncombe County VTC Program, says the program has been successful because it focuses on impacting its Veteran participants.

“The Veterans participating have been able to make WCC part of their recovery plan,” said Guidash. “Many of our participants voluntarily continue with the program after completion, staying actively involved by devoting a couple hours per week to give back to their fellow Veterans.”

Kevin Rumley, coordinator for the Buncombe County VTC, has watched the program since it took shape five years ago and continues to be inspired by its impact on the Veterans involved.

“I am amazed by the work of WCC with our VTC veterans,” said Rumley. “Michele, Amy, Robin (WCC staff and volunteers) and the WCC dogs have supported our veterans through every step of the VTC journey. From Phase-1 veterans who are navigating a new life without substances/drugs and all the requirements of the court, to our graduating veterans who are setting future focused goals and working towards careers, WCC is providing the veterans with the skills of self/emotion regulation, behavior modification, and trauma resiliency. I am honored to celebrate five years of our partnership and look forward to another five years of advancing healing for our veterans. WCC saves lives!”

Kevin and Clifford: From Cap & Gown to Courtroom

Kevin and his trusty pal Clifford, a Warrior Canine Connection facility dog, are just one of the Veteran Service Dog Teams that graduated in September as part of Warrior Canine Connection’s class of 2019. The two have been training and working together for almost two years but recently, Clifford’s leash was passed to Kevin, marking the official beginning of their pairing.

The duo is also a regular fixture at the Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) in Asheville, N.C., where they help Veterans involved in the legal system navigate a way to bettering their lives.  

And who better to help fellow Veterans than Kevin? You see, Kevin is also in long-term recovery, himself. While in the Marine Corps, after sustaining severe combat wounds during his deployment in Iraq, he became addicted to opioids and pain pills he was prescribed while recovering from his physical wounds. Kevin credits the support of the VA and community providers with getting his life back on track, completing graduate school, and becoming a licensed social worker. Now he’s helping other Veterans on their recovery journey. 

“My experience working with Clifford has meant the world to me,” said Kevin Rumley, coordinator, Buncombe County VTC. “As a combat-wounded veteran, I struggle to remain regulated and calm in high-stress situations. Clifford brings joy and happiness to the courthouse, and anywhere he goes. From providing snuggles to traumatized youth in the courtroom (during difficult G.A.L Trials), to supporting justice-involved Veterans (in Veterans Court), Clifford is having a positive impact on every person he meets.” 

The Buncombe County VTC program, a non-adversarial, treatment-based diversion program, is overseen by Judge Marvin Pope. The program is designed to help Veterans with legal issues, focuses on recovery through a coordinated effort amongst the VA and community mental health providers. In fact, if Veterans get help and do the work, upon completion of the program, Veterans can petition to have their charges dismissed. 

Their partnership with Warrior Canine Connection has proven especially beneficial to all parties involved. Veteran participants in the court receive their VTC-required community service hours by training the WCC puppies, and once the puppies graduate after two years, they are paired with a combat-wounded Veteran. 

“All this time I have been training these dogs, I thought I was teaching them, but in all actuality, the dogs were teaching me,” said Robinson Moore, VTC participant.

Kevin and Clifford don’t just help in the courtroom, they also assist Veterans with finding meaningful employment, housing, educational pursuits, custody cases, and everything in-between. Kevin talks about the sense of community that comes from working with Veterans during their recovery process.  

“When we served together, it was a single unit, a tribe,” said KevinEveryone was looking out for each other. We believe that this is just as important now that we are out of the service. It is through connection and service to others, including with the service dogs, that we are empowered to not only recover — but to thrive.”   

Kevin is excited for the continued partnership with WCC, saying “We have already seen the positive impact Clifford has had on the Courthouse community. My hope is to continue to bring WCC to those places of greatest need… the healing that comes from working with these dogs is incredible.”  

Combat-wounded veterans meet new service dogs

Veterans and “Puppy Parents” from 18 different states came out to recognize the hard work and service of both the dogs and military service men and women.

September 28, 2019 – Veterans got to meet their new service dogs at Warrior Canine Connection’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Around a dozen “good boys and girls” were honored after they completed a two-year training program. These dogs provide emotional support for combat wounded veterans and their families. Watch the entire WDVM 25 story here.