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Help for Heroes


Heroes helping Heroes

The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs and the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America have teamed up to offer a volunteer program called Help for Heroes. Help for Heroes is an opportunity for veterans to care for and train puppies to become assistance dogs for their disabled comrades.

Veterans face many challenges when it comes to reintegrating into society. They often feel isolated and depressed. The loss of friends and comrades can lead to feelings of helplessness and guilt. It is common for both combat and non-combat veterans to deal with some level of anxiety, anger, and/or depression that comes with physical injuries or emotional trauma. For too many veterans, everyday events continue to trigger traumatic memories from their time of service, resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

By caring for and training puppies Help for Heroes aims to assist veterans in two ways: 1) to help heal their emotional wounds, become more relaxed, and less hyper-vigilant; and 2) to help their fellow comrades, wounded in duty, regain their independence through the aid of assistance dogs. These very special dogs provide constant companionship for both the trainer and the recipient, greatly decreasing feelings of isolation, anxiety, anger, and/or depression.

Help for Heroes is seeking veterans who wish to volunteer their time and resources to train assistance dogs. Veterans will be taught how to train the dogs to respond to dozens of commands. Within approximately 18 months, the dogs will be able to help their new owners with simple to complex tasks such as opening doors, turning on/off lights, retrieving dropped items, alerting to safety hazards, helping with the laundry, and more. These round-the-clock companion dogs are eager to serve and give their owners greater independence.

A special thanks for helping to make this program possible goes out to Air Compassion for Veterans who provides air fare to veterans that need to fly to get their dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are my responsibilities as a puppy-raiser?
    • Attend all assistance dog training classes, basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, grooming, veterinary care, love, affection, and socialization. Puppies are to be kept in the home, no outside kenneling.
  • What is my financial responsibility?
    • The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs will provide the initial assistance dog training kit includes a collar, leash, and vest as well as additional training aids. Volunteers will provide food, basic veterinary care, and any additional supplies.
  • What primary skills are required to train a puppy?
    • No dog training experience is required. The veteran must be ambulatory without assistance, able to provide affection, and exercise patience when working with the puppy.
  • What happens when I go on vacation and cannot take the dog?
    • Contact The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs at least 10 days in advance. The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs will board the dog free of charge.
  • What happens to the dog if it is not suited for this kind of work?
    • These dogs are recognized as career-change dogs and sold as a pets to the most suitable home.
  • What happens if I am not able to stay in the program?
    • Notify the Director as soon as you realize you are not able to perform the necessary functions of a puppy-raiser. The puppy, vest, and all training tools provided by The Joys of Living Assistance must be returned.