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Congratulations to our latest Pups4Patriots graduates, Adam and Jacob!

Current U.S. Army Major Jacob and retired veteran Adam stood together in a beautiful Chapel Hill park on Tuesday having come from completely different parts of the country. Jacob traveled all the way from Colorado, while Adam made the trek from his home in Florida. The first step they took to join American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program, however, started with the same simple click of the computer mouse months ago.

On September 28th, Jacob and Adam became the latest to graduate from the Pups4Patriots program, which provides specially trained service dogs, at no cost, to veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

Adam found Pups4Patriots while searching for potential service dog programs online. After seeing American Humane’s YouTube channel filled with testimonials of veterans aided by the initiative, he jumped at the opportunity to add his name to the growing list of veterans who have been helped.

Jacob stumbled upon the program while researching ways to help out his mental health apart from the traditional medical care he received from the VA.

“I immediately got a response back saying that my application was received, which was important for me,” Jacob said. “I wanted to make sure that there was a clear closed loop of communication, which I’ve noticed with other organizations you don’t always get. I just noticed that when I was dealing with (American Humane), they were always giving me feedback on a monthly basis. Even if I wasn’t asking questions about the program itself, they would ask, ‘How are you doing?’ It was very regimented, which I liked about it, because a lot of us in the military are used to that.”

Once accepted into Pups4Patriots, both servicemembers were personally matched with a service dog handpicked to best meet their individual needs. Adam received a Standard Poodle named Joey, which he instantly formed a connection with due to his past as a dog lover with a similar pup.

Adam and his service dog Joey.

“When I was growing up, I had two Miniature Poodles,” he said. “I started looking around at what dogs were available and I came across Joey. I was like, ‘That would be a perfect match for me. I kind of held that in the back of my mind because I know we don’t get to pick the dogs, but when I got (to training), the trainer told me that this was my dog. I couldn’t have been happier. My childhood had come full circle.”

Jacob and his service dog Minerva

Jacob, meanwhile, was paired with a Labrador Retriever named Minerva whose burst of happy energy allowed him to be instantly connected to his newest furry best friend. After a 10-day “boot camp” with comprehensive service dog training, both pairs of veterans were able to learn how to interact in daily life with a companion who will help them through the tough times in public and beyond.

“Part of my problem is not knowing when I’m going to have a problem, so it kind of just creeps up on me and then it’s overwhelming,” Adam said. “With Joey … he’ll be able to tell me, ‘Hey, you’re going to have a problem.’ I can focus my attention on him and away from an issue that will probably end up causing me some problems.”

“This is a partner that is going to help you go into scenarios that you might not always want to,” Jacob said. “Places that you never thought that you’d be able to go to, this animal might be able to help you do those things now. The word ‘never’ will be taken out of your vocabulary now.”

Jacob similarly learned that, with his service dog by his side, he was able to manage being in circumstances that may have been difficult to cope with in the past. Whether it be at a noisy restaurant or in a crowded grocery store, Jacob now has a way to handle stressful situations that he did not have before Minerva entered his life.

“As we went through the training and focused more, not just on our dog, but being able to focus on that next step and knowing that our dog is there, we’re not focusing on the things around us because we have our partner right there,” he said. “Our partner is focusing on us, so we become kind of one as a result.”

Having hands-on access to a professional trainer both during the training and long after it ends ultimately led Jacob and Adam to making the decision to become the latest graduates.

“The accessibility of having a trainer through American Humane is going to set it apart from any other organization,” he said. “I don’t know of any other scenario where you would be able to receive a service dog as a veteran and then know that after you received a dog, you’ll not only get training through the receiving of the animal, but after you go home. That’s really what sets it apart.”

The on-the-ground education Adam received from American Humane’s professional trainer led him to feel like a new person.

“I have been transformed,” Adam said. “I would say we’re quite the dynamic couple. When I’m walking through stores, I find that I am more comfortable knowing he’s by my side. If a situation arises where I kind of have to be uncomfortable, I can just pull him a little bit more towards me and I’m like, ‘I’m here for him, he’s here for me, and we’re going to do just fine.’”

Service dogs are an invaluable asset to veterans who have sustained trauma, but there are significant obstacles to receiving one. Properly training a dog so they perform their needed tasks and remain calm and focused in public areas can be both expensive and time-consuming, with costs which can skyrocket upwards of $30,000.

And even when cost isn’t an obstacle, wait times can still be prohibitively long. Through the Pups4Patriots program, American Humane provides service dogs to veterans at no charge to them in both a timely and efficient manner.

The Pups4Patriots program, and its training of service dog teams, is made possible through the generous support of donors like Window World, who graciously sponsored the team of Jacob and Minerva.

To learn more, and help fund more stories like these, visit AmericanHumane.org.

“This is a partner that is going to help you go into scenarios that you might not always want to,” Jacob said. “Places that you never thought that you’d be able to go to, this animal might be able to help you do those things now. The word ‘never’ will be taken out of your vocabulary now.”

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