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A Salute to Soldiers

July 8, 2018
Friday, August 3rd at 5pm
Polish American Club of Agawam

From their Facebook Event page: “A Salute to Soldiers is a fundraising event hosted by Jack Chamberland that will be raising proceeds for America’s VetDogs, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to help those who have served our country honorably live with dignity and independence.” The fundraiser will be a cookout style event with raffle prizes donated by local businesses, a 50/50 raffle, live music performed by C.A. Jones, yard games, and guest speakers including graduates of the VetDogs program with their service dogs. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. You can purchase your tickets by visiting https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-salute-to-soldiers-tickets-47033657937 or by emailing asalutetosoldiers@gmail.com. We hope to see you there!”

Why is Cooper’s Gifts involved? Because we love the Chamberland family and we LOVE what they do for our vets. Jack Chamberland is a very impressive young man, and he is on a mission for a great cause. We are proud to assist him in spreading the word for this event!
I asked Jack to share some background on how his family got involved in training dogs for America’s Vet Dogs.Below is an overview of how the Chamberland family got involved, what the program entails, etc. He also included some links that may be of interest to you.
“In early 2015, while shopping at Geissler’s supermarket, my mom met a lady with a service dog wearing a yellow vest she had never seen before. After talking for a while, my mom found out that the lady was involved in what was known as the “Prison Puppy Program” with America’s VetDogs, and the dog she had was a puppy in training. She was a weekend puppy raiser, responsible for bringing the dog out in public to familiarize him/her with public areas. Here is a link that explains in depth what the Prison Puppy Program entails:
Starting in the spring of 2015, we were assigned to our first dog: Disco. Although part of the Prison Puppy Program, we were given Disco when he was almost a year old. He had transferred over from the Guide Dog program after an evaluation determined his skills and demeanor were more suitable for the VetDogs program. Eventually Disco moved on to formal training down at the foundation in Long Island, and he was later paired with a veteran. Several months later, we received an email from Disco’s veteran, thanking us for everything we had done. While having Disco by his side, he was able to completely come off of every medication that he had been taking for PTSD, and it had been months since his last nightmare.
After Disco came Travis who my family refers to as my son. Having broken my wrist during baseball season just weeks before being assigned to a new dog, I was extremely bored with very little to do other than school work. When Travis came, I took on the role of socializing and working in his skills. He slept in my room, and every morning I would wake up to his sad eyes (Eeyore eyes as we called them) looking up at me. Travis was the first puppy we raised, and similar to Disco, Travis also switched programs and transferred from the VetDogs program to the Guide Dog program. He was paired with a man who was visually impaired.
After Travis we had Rudy who came in a hot mess. He came home the first weekend with a bag of medicine for his eyes and his ears, and he also had an upset stomach. After a few weekends with him, Rudy finally showed his very mushy and lovable nature. He was later placed with a disabled veteran in a wheelchair.
After Rudy was Axl who we also raised from a puppy. He was paired with a veteran who was also diagnosed with PTSD. He lives in New Hampshire and has been a great help with putting this fundraiser together. We have spoken several times over the phone and we email back and forth almost every day, so he is very invested in ensuring that this fundraiser is a success. He will be at the fundraiser with Axl talking about how the program has changed his life, and Axl will be showing off some of his skills.
The last dog we had was Orion who, like Disco, came to us at an older age. We had him for about two months before he moved on to formal training. He graduated in the same class as Axl, and his veteran was also a victim of PTSD.
So in total, we have helped with the upbringing and socialization of five different dogs, four of which have graduated from the VetDogs program (the program the fundraiser will be benefitting) and one has graduated from the Guide Dog Program. Of the four VetDog graduates, three have been paired with veterans diagnosed with PTSD, and one who is disabled in a wheelchair.
As puppy raisers, we have the fun job of being able to bring the dogs out to restaurants, stores, and other public places. We also walk them in heavily trafficked areas to familiarize them with different noises, and attend training sessions on the weekends to enhance the skills they learn in the prison during the week.”
Below are some links that have more information: