PetSmart Charities believes in the power of animals to heal people’s hearts and the importance of giving back to the community. That’s why it selected Operation Freedom Paws—a nonprofit organization in California—to receive a PetSmart Charities grant in 2018.
According to Megan Wenholz, marketing director of Operation Freedom Paws, the organization is dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for veterans by teaching them how to train their own service dogs.
Becoming a Powerful Duo
“Operation Freedom Paws empowers veterans and individuals with disabilities to restore their freedom to live life by teaching them to train their own dogs, pulled from rescues, and certifying them as service dog teams,” says Wenholz.
Operation Freedom Paws service dogs can give veterans more independence and help them manage different health issues.
However, the process to get a service dog can be complex and time-consuming. That’s where the grant will come in handy.
“[The grant will be used for] continuing to bring clients off of our waitlist and matching them with a rescue dog to train together and certify as a service dog team,” says Wenholz.
Meet Rey and Chappy
The effect these dogs can have on the lives of their handlers can be dramatic. Wenholz recalls one story of a veteran named Rey.
When Rey entered into the program, his wife was initially reluctant to have a pit bull as their assigned dog, because of her fears of the breed. However, the organization was sure that Chappy, a pit bull mix, was the right match for Rey and his family.
One day, the normally quiet Chappy started barking and alerted Rey’s wife, leading her to him. She arrived in time to catch Rey as he began to fall. According to the family, they believe Chappy saved Rey’s life that say.
“This pair works together as smoothly as silk. They function like one individual,” says Wenholz. “Chappy has changed his life for the better and reconnected him with the family who loves them both.”