Volunteerism: A Family Affair
In August 2015, Pam Govender and Pawan Galhotra, along with their two young children, Sajel and Emil, were searching for a volunteer opportunity to give back to their community. The family had two requirements. First, because Pawan works at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California in its polytrauma unit, they wanted to stay connected to the VA’s programs. Second, they also wanted it to be an experience in which their entire family could participate, one which would allow all of the family members to give back in their own way. When they learned about Warrior Canine Connection’s (WCC) on-site program and mission, they scheduled a visit.
“We’re not a military family, but we recognize and appreciate what Veterans as well as their families have sacrificed for the country,” said Pam. “When we learned about WCC’s program at the VA, it resonated with us because of its mission. We dove right in. We filled out our applications right away and were enrolled in puppy parent training classes within two weeks.”
Five years and three dogs later, the family is still as involved and as passionate about the work they’re doing for WCC. Over the years, Sajel and Emil’s responsibilities have changed, but they continued to play a large role in the training and development of WCC dogs Charlie, Howard and, most recently, Arthur.
“It has been an amazing five years — there are no words to express the gratitude for our involvement in the program,” said Pam. “WCC has created a community of support offering our family an opportunity to help Veterans”.
Besides being three-time puppy parents, the family has also generously gifted their time and talents at countless community awareness outings, fundraising events and at just about any other opportunity or need that comes up throughout the year.
“Over the years and with the placement of each dog with their Veteran, we have come to appreciate the impact and healing that these dogs have had on the Veteran and their family. It’s so rewarding to see the bigger picture, knowing that the dog is doing something that is so important for someone else that’s in need.”
Pam says their home feels empty without a dog right now.
“I’m quite amazed by how much free time we suddenly have — it’s like that third child you miss,” said Pam. “We are eagerly awaiting our fourth service-dog-in-training. Our family recently hosted Andrew for a week. We are hoping to get our fourth dog in January or February, once one is available.”
“Pam and Pawan, and their children Sajel and Emil, are a family dedicated to raising WCC dogs for our wounded Veterans,” said Alexis Baker, WCC service dog training instructor, Menlo Park. “Pam is good at reflecting on how to help her dog make the progress he needs to make. Taking the training bit-by-bit when necessary for a dog that might be struggling, has helped out on numerous occasions. The whole family is a delight to work with and I’m looking forward to them getting another dog to raise soon too!”
And although current programming is limited due to the pandemic, Pam says the family is excited to get more involved when life returns to “normal,” and she encourages other families to get involved with WCC.
“I’d like to add — for potential puppy parents, even though there is a certain amount of work to be done, it is a gratifying experience for the entire family.” said Pam. “There’s a selfish component to the experience, but obviously the bigger picture is how much these dogs contribute to our Veterans’ lives.”
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a WCC puppy parent, click here.