I love dogs. I do. I grew up with dogs as pets. My parents got our first family dog around the time I was born and for my first 12 years of life, Chester was always by my side. When Chester passed, we had another dog. And now as an adult, I have two very loving -- and slightly spoiled -- rescue dogs. I can’t imagine not having a dog.
We also happened to live down the street from what is now the Guide Dogs of America training facility. Back in the 1980s, the organization primarily trained German Shepherds to be used as seeing-eye dogs for those with visual impairments. It was the first time I realized dogs were more than just pets to some people.
While my dogs serve no other purpose than companionship to me and my family, many dogs are being trained to provide Charlotteans with some very special services.
Charlotte-based Honor Service Dogs began in 1960 as a breeder and trainer of champion golden retrievers. Honor achieved the distinct recognition of placing and training 'Liberty' in the White House during President Gerald Ford's term in office.
Many Honor Goldens become certified for therapy and hearing dog work, servicing the physically and emotionally challenged community.
Today, Honor Service Dogs are working in countless veterans hospitals, crisis response teams, children with disabilities and the list goes on. To date, Honor Service Dogs has provided more than 425 working goldens to the special needs community, serving people as therapists, special assistants and support for mobility, mental and emotional challenges.
Another local organization, American Pit Bull Foundation, took two needs in our community and has found a solution to help both. Over 22 veterans a day are lost to suicide, which is now the leading cause of death in the military, surpassing war. Over 3,000 Pit Bulls are killed every day. Through its program, Operation Sidekick, APBF exclusively trains rescued pit bulls as service dogs to help veterans overcome the daily struggle of PTSD and depression.
Since its beginning in , APBF has successfully rescued 413 pit bulls.
Both Honor Service Dogs and APBF are in need of volunteers! Honor Service Dogs is in need of office help, grant writers and marketing assistance. If you are interested in volunteering with APBF, complete the volunteer form on their website. New volunteers will be onboarded in mid-January.