Charlie and Stacy

Youtube: America’s VetDogs

A few months ago, I profiled the work America’s VetDogs does to help veterans.  Charlie, a dog showcased on the Today Show from puppyhood, has graduated and found his match.

Stacy Pearsell, a Air Force war photographer, was serving in Iraq when a roadside bomb severely injured her.  She ended up returning to work, serving in Africa, but her headaches, neck pain, and PTSD were getting worse.

She found a new purpose when she met a WWII vet and realized it would be wonderful to profile veterans.  She began the Veteran Portrait Project.

Charlie and Stacy will make a great team.



Giving Tuesday

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s nice to have a day dedicated to charitable giving.  Each year in November, I use the tip money I receive through my job to donate to a cause that is meaningful to me and receives good reviews.

This year I chose the Guide Dog Foundation and Vet Dogs.  It is located in my home state, and I have bought holiday cards from them in the past.  They have sent me a quarterly newsletter and I have been so impressed by their dedication to the animals and their human companions.

Video: VetDogs, youtube

Last year I gave to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and I continue to foster an elephant there.  It is an amazing organization in Kenya, dedicated to rescuing elephants (and rhinos and giraffes).

Video: DSWT, youtube


Guide Dog Foundation “Catwalk”

In a previous post, I discussed how I bought Christmas cards from the Guide Dog Foundation.  Ever since I have gotten a newsletter, and unlike many charity mailings, I read this one cover to cover every time it arrives in the mail.

A fundraiser “Dogs on the Catwalk” will be held at Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, NY on Thursday, October 19, 2017.  The event will have a canine fashion show, cocktails and dinner, speakers, and raffles.  Tickets are $125.  You can donate without attending.

So far, the foundation has received 25% of their donations goal.

In the newsletter, they often feature someone who uses a guide dog.  Sonja Gunn, a mom of three, uses a guide dog.  She has had vision disabilities since age 7, and as an adult used a cane.  She has been amazed by the difference a guide dog makes in her life.  She said:

“Just being at the side of a guide dog and having them move you through things without even knowing they’re there is just wonderful for me.  I can move fast, I can hold my head up and have good posture.  All of those things are important because now I feel much better about going places on my own.”






Guide Dog Foundation

Like America’s VetDogs, the Guide Dog Foundation is in Smithtown, NY.  It was established in 1946 to help the blind. Originally, the program focused on assisting returning WW2 veterans, but now services a huge variety of people who are visually impaired – those born with the disability, those who have suffered injury or illness, and those who have age-related loss of sight.

It costs $50,000 to breed, train, and place a service dog.  Puppies undergo evaluations to see if they have what it takes to be a guide dog.  They are put in many different social situations, and must be able to walk fearlessly over a wide variety of surfaces and inclines.

According to Charity Navigator, 84% of the organization’s expenses go towards the services it provides.  This is a pretty good statistic!  You can support the foundation through a regular monetary donation, or by shopping online at their website.  They have cute holiday cards for $8, and plush toys for under $20.

(YouTube video from the Guide Dog Foundation is below)




Prison Puppy Program

Yesterday I highlighted America’s VetDogs.  One more aspect of the organization I admire is the Prison Puppy Program.  From the America’s VetDogs website:


In order to be selected as dog handlers, inmates are required to submit a letter of intent to a liaison, after which a team of social workers, case managers, psychology, custody and program staff become involved in the selection process. Inmates who are honorably discharged veterans are given preference to become raisers, but all candidates must have acceptable behavioral records while they have been incarcerated and first must pass a screening of the prison intelligence department.

The puppies learn basic every-dog things like how to sit, stay, heel, and be housebroken.  The training then moves onward to include how to pick things up off the floor, how to turn lights on and off, and how to open and close doors.  The prison has three or four puppies at a time.  As you can imagine, they are popular residents so the puppies get used to being in busy environments.

On weekends, the puppies leave the facility and are placed in volunteers’ homes so they can become socialized with children, other animals, and be taken to many different public places.

video: YouTube, America’s VetDogs

America’s VetDogs

videos: America’s VetDogs, YouTube

Each year, I look for unique Christmas cards to send that mean something special to me.  It’s always a fun project for me to decide what to create or buy.  I often start months ahead!

Last year, I was thrilled to find animal themed cards that supported two organizations in my home state of NY: America’s VetDogs and The Guide Dog Foundation.  In the next few blog posts, I hope to share some information about these organizations.  After buying the cards, I’ve received news updates and have grown rather attached to their mission and hope to highlight the good work they do.

America’s VetDogs was founded in 2003 to help returning veterans not only with physical tasks, but also with mental health healing and support.

It costs $50,000 to train and place a service dog.  The Today Show has been following one dog, Charlie, in hopes to raise awareness and funds for the organization.  Operation VetDogs hopes to raise $250,000 or more.

An example of a success story featured in America’s VetDogs newsletter: Joe Worley lost much of his left leg (as well as suffering damage to the other leg) in Iraq.  He came home with mental anguish as well, finding it difficult to adjust to daily life as a civilian  with terrible injuries that required him to depend heavily on others.

His VetDog Benjamin gave him confidence to try more tasks and also opened him up socially.  Before having the dog, he would walk only a few steps from his wheelchair before becoming discouraged.  With Benjamin, he could spend 85% of his day wearing his prosthetic and looking forward to the tasks ahead of him.

Joe now works for America’s VetDogs, presenting at shows, conventions, and schools across the country.   He works as a veterans relations liaison, making sure dogs and vets are paired together well.

Benjamin is now retired and is a pet in his family.  His new service dog is Galaxie.

Above are videos showcasing some of the skills the dogs are trained to do.

You can shop at and/or support VetDogs here.

video below: Today Show featuring Joe, Benjamin, Galaxie, and Charlie


Zoo Society

IMG_4759My local zoo is involved in conservation efforts.  They raise money for the International Elephant Foundation through an event called ZooBrew, which allows local breweries to feature their beers as people go to the zoo after hours.  The 2016 fundraiser raised $9500 to IEF’s Protecting Elephants Conservation Detection Dog Network.  This program helps train dogs in Congo, DRC, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia to help track and defeat poachers.

The 2017 ZooBrew money will also go to this important organization.

The zoo also contributes money to the International Rhino Foundation with an event called Cinco de Rhino, another craft beer event.

I live in the Finger Lakes region of NY, so wine and beer sales boost our local economy.  Innovative programming like this help keeps our zoo able to reach out to the larger community and educate people about conservation efforts.

Photo: taken at my local zoo