Eight years running and Warrior Canine Connection’s graduation wouldn’t be what it is without the support from its Extreme Puppy Watchers, or “EPWs,” to which they’re most commonly referred.
The EPWs are a group of WCC supporters that number in the thousands and is made up of volunteers from all over the country. The group’s moniker grew out of their collective love for WCC’s puppies and the Veterans they grow up to support.
In a “normal” graduation year, the EPWs help with the annual event, including its organization and execution, even hosting a pre-graduation happy hour. But they do much more for WCC than just assist with its graduation ceremony; they also help to raise awareness, fundraise and provide support to the organization in numerous other ways throughout the entire year.
Although there was some disappointment about not being able to see each other in-person at this year’s graduation, the EPWs also had many praises for this year’s event.
“It was a beautiful graduation and weekend. There were moments of tears and joy that touched my soul… it really was well done… next best thing to being together.”
– Sandi Rosenberg
“I watched it from beginning to end. I thought it was fantastic!”
– Robin Baus Artura
“My first attendance at a WCC graduation! Being in Australia, I would not have been able to attend in person. I love this virtual format. It was very touching. Great to have the veterans speak. As many have said, it was probably less stressful for them, which is good. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put this all together. Very well done. Truly grateful.”
– Ming Ng
“It was a beautiful graduation. So many joyful moments, and so many moments where I needed a lot of Kleenex! The graduation touched my heart. I wish that we all could have been together, but I really enjoyed the whole event!”
– Leslie Shear
Typically, Veterans graduating with their service dogs participate in the ceremony during the ritual “leash passing” with their dog’s puppy parent who helped raise their dog. This year, due to the virtual format, we were able to hear from the Veterans up close and personal about their relationships with their newfound best friends. And judging by some of the EPW’s input, that was a welcome change.
“I especially loved hearing the veterans speak. They’re usually so overwhelmed by all the people at the in-person ceremony.”
– Julie Hansen
“I missed seeing everyone in person, but I enjoyed the virtual graduation ceremony. The national anthem was wonderful and brought me to tears. I really enjoyed hearing from the veterans and seeing the service dogs interacting with them and their families.”
– Taffy Zoab
“It was much better than I had anticipated! Kudos to all who helped put it together. I too think the veterans seemed more relaxed. Loved seeing Spencer, he did an awesome job hosting and hearing his story. I didn’t want it to end. I’ve re-watched it three times already!”
– Cheryl Cannone
“It was very well done. I LOVED seeing video of the veterans with their dogs and hearing them speak about the impact these dogs have on them. Keynote speaker was awesome as well. It was all great!
– Anna Middeke
“I found myself feeling depressed most of the weekend, just because I was missing all of my friends and our in-person visit. That being said, graduation was awesome. Thank goodness for the technology and the opportunity to still visit with friends and see our beloved WCC dogs graduate. The videos were an added plus as we got to know more about the puppy parents and about the veterans receiving the dogs. To have each veteran say a little something on video was an added bonus. I believe the veteran was comfortable addressing us in this manner and it added a real human component to our “WCC Family.”
– Sandy Goga
“I really LOVED graduation is this format. I thought hearing from the Veterans was so meaningful and really brings all the work preparing the dogs for their future full circle. It really put the focus on the Veterans.”
– Ericka Johanek
“I loved the pre-graduation posts about the dogs, veteran partners and Puppy Parents….it was fun to learn about them in advance. I missed being there, but I think this was a huge success for our very first virtual event. Fun Virtual Happy Hour! It was great getting to see folks and celebrate. Loved the concert by Josh Gallagher! I loved the playing of the National Anthem…made me put my hand on my heart. I really loved hearing all the veterans videos…I felt like I learned so much about each of them and the Puppy Parents. It was so nice to get to know them. The video that Alice made was stellar and such a great capture of the entire event! A treasured memory.”
– Cindy Meyers
“This was my 1st WCC graduation. It was wonderful. The keynote speaker, stories and phtoos about vets and parents were so moving. Thank you for making this happen.”
– Leila Collins
Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s WCC graduation possible!