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Four heroes receive puppies thanks to West MS students

Hero's Puppy for LifeA classroom filled with middle school students were quietly waiting for three special guests to arrive. As soon as each puppy was carried in, ‘awws’ filled the room as the puppy would meet its owner for the very first time.

It’s been a tradition at West Middle School for seven years to help raise funds for puppies to give to veterans. The puppy is provided to help veterans come back to the life they lost due to trauma while serving our country and communities. The partnership with Hero’s Puppy for Life has blossomed over the years.

Students, staff, and their families raise money by selling t-shirts, baked goods, and through dining night outs. This year, the school raised more than $5,000, surpassing their $3,500 goal. This means four American English Golden Retrievers were given to veterans in our community, thanks to the fundraising efforts by West Middle School students. One of the puppies and new owners were not able to make it to the big reveal on Friday.

“We teach in social studies that freedom isn’t free and to see my students participate in bake sales and work hard to help veterans who have served our country really connects the real-world stuff to what we are learning in class,” Sara Whitley, social studies teacher at West, shared.

Tshirt designThe dogs are placed with a veteran at eight weeks old and then they go through nine months of training together. The puppies are even held by their owner on the drive home, which starts the bonding process. Hero’s Puppy for Life uses relationship bond training and doesn’t use any fear or harm-based training. 

“If you build a great bond between the puppy and the person, the dog will know instinctively when something is wrong for that person,” founder & CEO Frank Griggs said. “We have seen dogs alert for things like night terrors as early as 16 weeks of age. We want the relationship between the dog and its owner as tight as it can be.”

Hero's Puppy for Life2The veterans watch 79 videos on how to take care of a puppy even before the puppy’s homecoming. Three veterans were patiently waiting to receive their puppies on Friday.

“I was young when I went into the service, only 18 years old, so seeing young people supporting us, it is so nice to see,” veteran Neil Corvino said.

Corvino is a Vietnam combat veteran. He said his new dog Buddy helped him get out of a hard time even before he received the little guy.

“He already started working his magic when I was talking to somebody,” he said. “Just mentioning his name worked and put a smile on my face.” Marvin Campbell nearly cried when he was handed his new dog, Cooper.

Campbell served in the Army for twenty years and did missions in Iraq. He appreciated the generosity of students supporting veterans like him.

“For me, being able to get a puppy as a service animal is such an incredible feeling,” Campbell described. “Knowing that Cooper will always be there, if I have some issues with my PTSD, that he’ll be able to sense it before it starts and hopefully alleviate the stress that I go through.” 

Kate Jennings, who also served in the Army, named her puppy Luna.

“It means the world to me, I feel like it will give me my life back because I have a lot of social anxiety and it will help me with that,” she shared. Hero’s Puppy for Life, formerly named Veteran’s Puppy for Life, has given 89 puppies since 2015. Several years ago, the name changed to extend their PTSD service dogs to emergency first responders as well.

Posted 1/30/2023.

Kate & Luna