PenFed Credit Union has partnered with America’s VetDogs to provide trained service dogs to disabled military vets and first responders.
We need more stories like this one: PenFed Credit Union which has a long history of serving America’s military and veterans, has a new puppy in the family. Ace, a yellow Labrador Retriever, is the newest dog the credit union is raising in its partnership with America’s VetDogs. He is being raised by Andrea McCarren, vice president and chief content officer for PenFed Digital. PenFed employees are currently raising seven dogs around the country right now.
“It’s always hard to let them go after 18 months, but when you meet the recipient and see the life you are about to change, you realize what an honor it is,” says McCarren, who has raised three other service dogs in addition to Ace. She is still training one, named Maverick.
(In a coincidence that seems meant to be, the construction site across the street while I write this is playing the TopGun soundtrack).
What’s so remarkable about the PenFed partnership is that employees raising the dogs are encouraged to bring the dogs to work with them. Everyone at the office is told not to pet or feed the dog while it is on duty, which helps the dogs learn to stay focused around a lot of people and distractions (when they’re off duty, though, they get a lot of love).
Ace and his fellow service dogs will eventually be matched with a military vet or first responder who is suffering from physical injuries, PTSD, hearing and vision loss, or seizures. The puppies spend 18 months preparing for the next phase of training, when they learn more advanced skills and are then matched with an applicant free of charge.
Related: THE DOGS OF WAR: HOW MAN’S BEST FRIEND SERVES IN THE MILITARY
Ace and his brother and sister dogs can learn up to 200 tasks associated with the skills of push, tug, brace and retrieval. Once a client is matched with a dog, instructors customize the training of each dog to meet that specific client’s needs – things like opening doors, turning on lights, providing balance, helping navigate mass transit, and more.
It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog. While PenFed is covering the cost associated with raising its service dogs, VetDogs is always in need of individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to fund its mission: You can donate here.
If you or someone you know would like to apply for a service dog, you can do so here. Veteran applicants must have served in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces (from any era), have received an honorable discharge, be visually or hearing impaired or physically disabled, or have combat-related PTSD.
VetDogs is also looking for weekend puppy raisers for its America’s VetDogs Prison Puppy Program in the following areas: Connecticut: Somers and Hartford areas; Florida: Milton and Pensacola areas; Maine: Thomaston area; Massachusetts: Shirley area; Maryland: Cumberland, Hagerstown areas; Pennsylvania: Dallas area.
You can follow Ace and all the PenFed Pups via the PenFed Pups Facebook group.