As we celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, one organization is working to help train service dogs for veterans who need them. It’s all through the organization Warrior Canine Connection. Watch the full story on Fox 5 Atlanta.
Tag Archive for: WCC puppy parents
Love dogs and want to support our nation’s Veterans? Then as Uncle Sam famously said, ‘We want you!’ Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) is seeking Puppy Parent volunteers to help make a paw-sitive impact in the lives of service dogs in training and the Veterans who they will go on to serve.
What does being a Puppy Parent entail? Puppy Parent volunteers help care for, raise and train service dogs in training for approximately two years before they go on to be placed with Service Members and Veterans with visible and invisible wounds.
The need for Puppy Parents is at the following locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia:
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Boyds, Maryland
- Ellicott City, Maryland
- Frederick, Maryland
- Occoquan, Virginia
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The journey is not just about training a puppy—it’s about nurturing a future service dog who will bring hope and assistance to one of our nation’s heroes. Please take a moment to learn more and hear just how rewarding the experience of being a Puppy Parent can be here.
To learn more or to fill out a Puppy Parent volunteer application, visit Become a Puppy Parent – Warrior Canine Connection.
Warrior Canine Connection is seeking puppy lovers to help raise a future service dog for present and former members of the United States military.
“We are in dire need of puppy parent volunteers,” said Beth Bourgeois, media relations officer for the nonprofit in Boyds. The organization seeks at least a dozen puppy parents. Read the full story on MYMCMedia.org here.
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.”
April is National Volunteer Month. We at Warrior Canine Connection are grateful to all the volunteers who support our organization. Your generosity allows our Veterans to heal, our programs to thrive, and has created a strong community.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director, Warrior Canine Connection. “We simply couldn’t do all that we do without the support of our extraordinary volunteers. They are helping to change lives for the better.”
Somehow, despite restrictions due to COVID-19 and operating at 60% of volunteer capacity from one year earlier, our amazing volunteers posted a record number of 78,707 service hours in 2020, valued at $2,140,830 ($27.20/hour) in cost savings to WCC.
Also, remarkably, 50% of WCC’s 2020 volunteers were comprised of Military Family Members and Veterans—reinforcing the adage of ‘Veterans helping Veterans.’
Why are WCC volunteers so engaged? Each volunteer has their own reason.
“From the first time I saw Holly’s Half Dozen on the explore web cam and tuned-in to the live chats about the organization, I connected to the WCC mission of using the healing power of dogs to help veterans who were struggling. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to see the difference one dog can have in the life of a veteran and his/her family. My life path did not include military service but volunteering with WCC has now given me the opportunity to support our nation’s veterans. The unexpected part of volunteering with WCC are the many connections and dear friendships I’ve made with other volunteers and supporters all across the country.”
Terrie Bates, WCC Volunteer since 2013
“I learn so much from the animals and the trainers and love the mission!”
Amy Griffith, WCC Volunteer since 2020
“I love the feeling of community at WCC. We are there for each other, you are never alone when raising a future service puppy. We all support each other when we are feeling stuck or disheartened when maybe our puppy isn’t as far along in training as others. We remind each other our puppies have their own path and it’s not about keeping up with each other it’s about taking it at your puppy’s pace. We also support each other during the transition from when our puppies go to their path whether that be a family support dog, advanced training and working service dog. Our hearts ante poured into these fur love bugs and we know the day will come to transition from our heart to another but it’s never easy even though it’s beautiful.”
Ashley Poindexter-Tarmy, WCC Volunteer since 2019
“I have always volunteered for some organization in every phase of my life but WCC is by far the most rewarding volunteer job I’ve ever had. My father and brother are both disabled Veterans and I couldn’t be more honored to be able to give back to our veterans in such a healing and holistic way.”
Michele Burkhammer, WCC Volunteer since 2019
“Volunteering at WCC allows me to connect to the military community. While I work with dogs, I feel great satisfaction knowing that I am helping veterans and their families caring for the dogs that will one day serve them. I believe in WCC’s mission and feel good in knowing that the dogs we raise will help those in need.”
Nancy Deprey, WCC Volunteer since 2020
“WCC gives me a purpose and working with all Veterans allows me to give back to my brothers and sisters in arms who have given so much. Being able to watch the changes take place and the Veterans opening up. To see them laugh and smile and make eye contact. It is everything and worth the 2.5 hours I spend in a car to watch this miracle happen.”
Robin Martin, WCC Volunteer since 2012
“We want to give back to Veterans and their families. It is a huge honor to be a WCC volunteer and share the mission with everyone
Bill and Tammy Crozier, WCC Volunteer since 2019
“Volunteering for WCC combined love of dogs with a mission I support; I am a part of something bigger than me, and my support continues WCC’s mission.”
Kimberly Harrington, WCC Volunteer since 2016
Thank you to all of you, our amazing volunteers, who give your time and talents to WCC; we are very appreciative of all you do.
We will be featuring several of our amazing volunteers with their thoughts on why they choose to help WCC on our Facebook page, so keep an eye out for them!
Interested in volunteering for WCC? You can check out our current opportunities here.