Friday, March 26, 2010

Ft. Stewart is up and running

Terry, Kyria and I were at Ft. Stewart, GA for two weeks of boot camp this month. The opening of the Ft. Stewart program has been in the works for approximately five months, so this was a very exciting time for us. Terry and Kyria had already interviewed and selected a handful of soldiers to be our first trainers so we were ready to start getting the ball rolling as soon as we arrived. Boot Camp consists of a concentrated, jam-packed two weeks in which we teach commands, protocol, rules, program expectations, the first 2-3 sections of our academic course work, as well as care, feeding, and maintenance of the dogs. The soldiers were tested on their knowledge of commands and academics before the first two dogs were left in their capable hands. PUMPKIN and DEJA were the two lucky dogs moved to Ft. Stewart from Jesup (a men's prison camp 30 miles from Ft. Stewart). Both PUMPKIN and DEJA had undergone such wonderful transformations while at Jesup that they transfered into Ft. Stewart with only minimal amounts of stress.

There are so many events that happened in those two weeks it would be very hard to describe them all. I would be remiss if I didn't describe some of the more noteworthy highlights though. Some of my favorite parts of the trip:

1. The soldiers who showed an immediate dedication and investment to the program. These guys are so important....they have already formed the "core group" that will make our program successful. We can't thank them enough for being motivated to step out and help when it was needed!
2. The visit we scheduled at Jesup. All of our soldier trainers came on this visit as well as Buf and SALLY. It was a moving and emotional visit for everyone. The inmates were so thankful that the soldiers had taken the time to come see them and the soldiers were grateful to have a chance to meet and talk with PUMPKIN and DEJA's trainers. Everyone was touched by witnessing Buf and SALLY's bond, hearing Buf's story, and watching SALLY perform the "pay attention" command for him. It is always a powerful experience when we get our clients together with our inmate trainers. The connection made between the two groups of people is life changing.
3. We were honored to have a visit from General Phillips the second week we were there. The General come and toured our "mod" (our home base where the dogs are housed and classes are held). He talked extensively with Terry, asked lots of questions, showed lots of interest in the program and ended up asking Terry, Kyria and I out to dinner that night to learn more about the program. We had a wonderful dinner with him that evening filling him in on all the details of paws4people and paws4vets. We are very excited to continue working with the General to find new ways to train dogs and help as many soldiers as possible.
4. I can't leave out the wonderful shrimp at BJ's BBQ in Jesup and crab legs and key lime pie at Captain Joe's Seafood Restaurant! :)

Keep visiting back-lots of more exciting stuff happening with paws4people. Terry, Kyria and Allison are visiting Ft. Lejeune again this week, the p4p 5k is coming up soon, I'll be back down in GA on the 7th...the list keeps going on and on!

Visit paws4people for more information about our Assistance Dog programs, NPOFundingSolutionS for more information about our nonprofit fundraising programs, and to purchase online raffle tickets, support our programs and Win $1Million!

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