MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Past and present members of our military and first responders make it their mission to keep our communities and country safe.
A program that helps our heroes with disabilities maintain their independence safely is looking for help.
National non-profit America’s VetDogs is looking for puppy raisers to help raise service dogs that will enhance the lives of veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities.
Some will say there’s no care like canine care. Just ask Joe Hodges an Army veteran living in Montgomery County.
“I am extremely proud to have served this country and given my eyes to this country,” explained Joe.
Joe is blind.
“I was proficient with the long cane, and I felt like I was doing great with the long cane until I got Bruce,” explained Joe.
The veteran said he waited two years for Bruce.
“There are not any words to describe what it means. You trust him, once you give him your trust, it’s over,” Joe said.
Lorin Bruzzese is with America’s VetDogs. She is the Puppy Program manager.
“We completely rely on our volunteers,” Bruzzese said.
America’s VetDogs is a non-profit that provides service dogs to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders with disabilities free of charge. The program is in need of puppy raisers in the greater Houston area.
“Puppy raising is a job that focuses on socialization for all our future assistant dogs, so as a puppy raiser, you would be committed to basically taking the pup with you as often as possible for socialization experiences and teaching the pup some basic skills and commands before they return back to us for formal training,” explained Lorin.
The commitment is about a year.
“Our puppy raisers and volunteers are volunteering without any cost outside of the cost of dog food. VetDogs covers vet care, all necessities, leashes, collars, anything the pup needs will be covered by VetDogs itself, and just dog food, is what we need from the volunteers. They might learn to do skills like retrieving and picking up various objects, opening and closing doors, a skill called nightmare interruption is very impactful and various other things that will give that person as much independence and comfort as possible,” explained Lorin.
“He has yet to take me to the women’s. He always takes me to the men’s. I don’t know how he knows the difference, but he does,” laughed Joe.
After that one-year commitment, the pup goes back to America’s VetDogs, to receive the training needed to be a service dog. Once that is complete, the dog is matched with a person who then undergoes training.
The organization said it’s prepared to support and meet any living situation or career of potential puppy raisers.
Since 2005, America’s VetDogs has matched 50 service dogs and people with disabilities across Texas.