CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
As part of the Catholic Schools Week festivities, St. Ann School, in Emmaus, not only showcased the accomplishments of its students but also reached out to the community. This year, students earned a dress down day by donating to the service dog training group Alpha Bravo Canine.
This organization was founded by Army wife Jennifer Green, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledged Assessed and her son Kevin Daly, United States Marine Corps, after Daly returned home from his second deployment to Afghanistan. Their shared knowledge and experience with dog training and the post deployment struggles experienced by many veterans resulted in Alpha Bravo Canine.
As presented in the group’s mission statement, Alpha Bravo Canine volunteers work “… to raise, train and donate trained service dogs to U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder…, traumatic brain injury…and other combat related disabilities.”
The service dogs are provided to veterans free of charge. Each dog is trained for about two years at a cost of approximately $30,000. St Ann students raised over $300 to support this effort.
In recognition of the children’s generosity, Alpha Bravo Canine volunteer and Veteran Outreach Coordinator Paul Houck and therapy dog in training Louie gave a school-wide assembly. Houck explained the history of Alpha Bravo Canine and the steps and procedures for training a service dog; Louie stole the show.
Louie, a 10-month-old Labrador retriever and his brothers Frisco and Cooper began training to become service dogs when they were eight weeks of age. Unfortunately, Louie injured one of his hind legs and may no longer participate in service dog training. The good news is that, as Houck explained, “[Louie is] being repurposed as a therapy dog.”
Service dogs are specifically trained to assist people with disabilities. They undergo intense training with qualified handlers, and when fully prepared, are placed with those needing their skills. Therapy dogs usually have a less rigorous training program and live their entire lives with their handlers. Their main jobs are to visit people in need of comfort and to participate in educational programs. A working service dog should not be petted or distracted. A working therapy dog invites folks to pet, talk and interact with him.
In his new role, Louie visits hospitalized veterans and represents Alpha Bravo Canine at public events such as the St. Ann School assembly. Sweet tempered and affable, Louie, who as part of his training accompanies Houck everywhere, is the ideal canine representative. He specifically enjoys accompanying Houck to trivia nights and sporting events such as the Army/Navy game. His love of people became clear during the assembly when he stealthily army-crawled to the front row of children and passed out a few dog kisses.
Through the efforts of volunteers like Houck and the community concern of organizations like St. Ann School in Emmaus, Alpha Bravo Canine is spreading the message that veterans deserve post-combat assistance and supplying that support in the form of service dogs.