This weekend, my family and I had the opportunity to meet a disabled veteran who has a service dog. My four-year-old daughter was thrilled to see a dog at the restaurant we went to and like most occasions, eagerly ran over to visit. Up until this point, we hadn’t explained to her that not all dogs are pets and she managed to pet the dog on the head before this conversation unfolded. The gentleman we met was very nice and took things in stride as I explained to her a working dog is like a person who is working and you must allow the animal to do its job. Since she was informed she wasn’t allowed to pet the dog, she choose to sit next to the Army veteran and stared, with great glee, so she had a good viewpoint of Hock, the dog.
I didn’t ask the man what his name was, but for his privacy, if I had, I also wouldn’t reveal it as I didn’t ask his permission to share his story. As such, I will share non-personal details. It’s always a little funny when veterans meet one another because we talk to each other in such a casual way I don’t see often among civilians. We talked about our service (his in the 80’s and ours Post-9/11) and joked about how he’s encountered adults who disregard the “Disabled Veteran” service jacket his dog wears to inform people his dog is not a pet, but a service animal.
Before we parted ways, he told us welcome home. I know many people might not realize it, but a simple sentiment like “Welcome Home” because we both deployed is much more meaningful than the “Thank you for your service” given generically to us for our veteran status.
It’s a rare occurrence for me to encounter a veteran who has a service dog. I found information on the VA’s website that while they don’t provide a service dog themselves, they do evaluate whether a veteran would benefit from the companionship of a service dog and connect approved veterans through their Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Services. The VA pays for the animal, if approved, its training, and veterinary care to assist veterans.
Pretty awesome, huh?
And I also found information about an organization called Patriot Paws that provides mobility service dogs and PTSD dogs to veterans free of charge. I am not quite sure how many organization out there provide service animals but it is interesting to see how accessible the information is online regarding service dogs for our veterans.