Edge of Autism Walk 2013. Ike had a great time!
Calvin Leon Graham- (April 3, 1930–November 6, 1992) was the youngest U.S. serviceman, during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy in May 1942, at the age of 12. He was wounded at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, while serving aboard the USS South Dakota. During the battle, he helped in the fire control efforts aboard the South Dakota, but suffered fragmentation wounds in the process. For his actions he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Next month Hero Dogs Top Gun “Maverick” will begin his advanced training with a veteran partner. Part of his training plan includes ensuring he gets the appropriate amount of exercise…even if his veteran is unable to provide it. Just as Maverick will help fill the needs of his veteran, teaching him to use the treadmill means that his veteran will be able to provide for his needs as well.
Hero Dogs Help Rehabilitate Veterans
BY LAURA DAILY
Army veteran Luke Wayman and Ike were paired by Hero Dogs.
The pair’s final exam had been fairly easy—answering questions, demonstrating skills, minding manners in public—but then the testers threw Ike a challenge. It was a plate of juicy, delicious beef stroganoff, sitting in the middle of a local grocery store—and he couldn’t touch it. “He knows he can’t have it,” lamented Luke I. Wayman, who went on to reward his protégé with a treat for staying on task.
Ike is a black Labrador retriever. In January, he and Wayman, a former Army medic, became the first successful graduates of Hero Dogs, Inc. The Brookeville, Maryland–based nonprofit matches highly trained service dogs with military veterans living in the region, free of charge.
Scientist, dog lover, and Brookeville resident Jennifer Lund, PhD, founded the organization. Lund, an electrical engineer by trade, grew up with dogs, and in graduate school began fostering puppies for guide-dog associations. While she worked in the field of neural prosthetics—devices implanted in the brain that interface between the brain and nervous system to control prosthetics, such as artificial eyes and limbs—Lund also became involved in training dogs, and she opened her own company, See Spot Sit, in 2002.
“But I wanted to do something more meaningful than housebreaking your puppy,” she recalls, so she scoured the area for a service-dog program. “Thousands of military personnel return or rehabilitate here, but if they wanted a service dog, they usually had to go elsewhere. There’s a huge learning curve and, for many veterans, leaving town for a service dog program… doesn’t work.”
Convinced she could craft a better model, Lund, also a married mother of two, founded Hero Dogs, Inc., and her first pup arrived in March 2010. The program requires two and a half years of animal training from start to finish. A puppy spends 14 months with a local foster family, then another six to eight months at the Hero Dogs facility, working with trainers on a daily basis to hone service skills. Only then are dogs matched with vets. The duo trains another six months, working together on tasks and solidifying their bond before final certification.
In April 2012, Lund introduced Wayman to Ike. Says Lund, “Traditional service dogs are taught to do a specific task—for instance, guide the blind, hear for the deaf, or assist someone in a wheelchair. Hero Dog clients have multiple challenges; maybe [it’s] mobility, hearing loss, or psychiatric issues like PTSD. Our dogs can do it all: open and close doors, retrieve, alert to sounds, pick up things—you name it.”
Lund now finds herself as a trainer, administrator, motivator, and fundraiser. “After my second child was born, I swore I wouldn’t go back to full-time work. That backfired,” she says with a laugh. Her days are filled with family matters, dog classes, staff meetings, attending events, and reviewing veterans’ program applications. “I’m surprised at how much stuff there is to do and how little time I get to spend with the dogs,” Lund admits.
Each Hero Dog costs about $30,000 to train and match. Lund draws no salary, and more than 20 volunteers help at the kennels, in addition to dozens more who help out in other capacities. Her goal this year? To raise $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations and match four dogs with veterans (two more applicants were matched with dogs in January). “Eventually someone will have to replace me to run the organization or to train the dogs,” she says. “I want it to grow bigger than me.”
If Ike and his new partner are any indication, Lund is on track. “I accidentally dropped my keys; Ike grabbed them and handed them to Luke,” she recalls. “Ike and I spent two years together, so before he would have brought them to me. I thought, ‘Now we know whose dog he is.’”
[W]Hayman credits his canine companion with helping to ease his anxiety. Ike also alerts him to sounds like a ringing telephone. “He’s a good friend and partner who goes everywhere with me. More important, he forces me to think outside of myself, take on more burdens, and, in a good way, to push myself.”
And others are poised to benefit from Lund’s nonprofit. “As the full scope of PTSD comes to light, Hero Dogs becomes more vital for veterans like me integrating back into civilian life,” says Wayman. “But I’m biased,” he quips. “They gave me a dog.” 1-888-570-8653 Read more at http://capitolfile-magazine.com/living/articles/hero-dogs-help-rehabilitate-veterans#6kyxxJD3ycXgA2Sr.99
It takes two and a half years to train dogs like Ike.
Jennifer Lund utilizes a wheelchair in the training process.
Radar opening a cabinet.
Maverick carrying groceries.
After hours upon hours of one-on-one and group training to work with several specific issues (house manners, obsessing over shadows and lights, jumping on new people, barking at the slightest sounds indoors and out or anything he doesn’t recognize, and more…) Hero Dogs Abraham Lincoln has moved out of the Hero Dogs program and facility and in with his forever family (and professional dog trainer) where he can be himself…a happy-go-lucky house pet.
A service dogs’ job is a difficult one. Thank you to his puppy sponsor, puppy raiser, and the countless number of volunteers who loved him and worked with him…Though he is not going to be a service dog, he is still a great dog, and a very happy boy.
APG News Story and photo by YVONNE JOHNSON http://www.apgnews.apg.army.mil/archives/pdf2013/Feb1413.pdf
A Wounded Warrior and employee with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) recently gained a new best friend, courtesy of a Maryland charity that provides service dogs to injured or disabled veterans.
Kelly Keck, an equal employment opportunity specialist in ATEC’s EEO Office and Lady Liberty recently met when representatives from the charity introduced him to the 3-year-old golden retriever, called “Libby” for short.
Keck and Libby are still in training but warmed to each other enough to begin spending 24-hours a day in each other’s company, organizers said. The service dogs, referred to as “Hero Dogs,” enhance warriors’ lives by retrieving items, turning on lights, opening doors and various other tasks.
Hero Dogs also help calm the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, according to Keck. He said when Libby senses his agitation, she places her head on his knee and applies pressure in a, “Don’t worry, I’m here” kind of way. “She settles me down,” Keck said.
He said the greatest advantage is that Libby can bring him things he needs like his wheelchair, which she pulls by a rope. And she almost eliminates the need for him to bend over and pick things up, which can cause dizziness. “She can open and close things but the most relevant part for me is reaching for things down low or on the floor, and even going up stairs,” he said.
Keck expressed his thanks to EEO supervisors who have supported his special needs requirements. “I especially want to thank the ATEC commander, chief of staff, EEO supervisors and entire ATEC family for helping me by ensuring I have every accommodation needed to be successful in my job,” he said.
January has been a very cold month. It doesn’t bother me much but it takes Petra forever to get motivated to go outside. First I have to beg at the door for a long time and then she needs to put on a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots and all that for just a short walk up the road! We have been playing fetch in the yard a lot and I am getting some good exercise chasing the balls and the frisby.
We had our quarterly Hero Dogs meeting and all the Hero Dogs were there. Was that ever exciting! It was very hard to concentrate on what Petra was telling me since there were so many distractions…???? Tail, Grant barking, Rosie looking so cute, Franklin way out of my reach plus there were new puppies that I wanted to meet! After our meeting we all went out to lunch together. We dogs had to sit under the table while our adults ate pizza We were all pretty tired from the excitement of the class so after a while we settled down and had a nap.
Petra takes me out on most of her errands. The people at the Safeway know me now and I have been passing out business cards to the new people we meet. They are always so impressed that I can hand them the card…although sometimes it’s a bit damp…People are always interested to hear about Hero Dogs and they say that I am so well behaved. That makes me feel very proud. I get a little impatient when we go out to lunch though. Those humans need a long time to eat their food! I’m usually ready to go way before they’re done. Petra says that I need to learn to be more patient…ho…hum.