America's VetDogs is hoping to raise more awareness on the West Coast, so it held a kickoff reception at a private party in Bel Air.
Invitees gathered around the pool to hear stories from dog handlers and veterans. Once in a while, a guest drops a bit of finger food on the floor, but unlike Fido at most house parties in LA, these pups are too well-behaved to lunge for it.
America's VetDogs West Coast Kick Off Party
Pet dogs usually learn common commands like "sit," "lie down" and "rollover," but the training for these service dogs are specifically altered to the needs of their individual owners. These lifesaving tasks could include dialing 911, knowing when to cross a busy street or helping a veteran get in and out of a wheelchair.
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"On average, it costs about $50,000 to breed, train and place one dog," John Miller, President and CEO America's VetDogs, said. "We don't charge at all for our services."
Any veteran or person who is visually impaired gets his dog free of charge, which is why the organization seeks public donations in order to meet its goals.
The hefty price tag is well worth it, according to one veteran and Purple Heart recipient, HM3 Joseph Worley.
"When you go from being the person everybody comes to for help and then all of a sudden, you need all the help in the world, it's a very uncomfortable situation," Worley said.
After his left leg was amputated above the knee, Worley found himself having trouble doing day-to-day tasks. Getting his first service dog completely changed his life for the better. That dog has since retired, and Worley is now aided by his second service dog from America's VetDogs, Galaxie.
"Not only does Galaxie mitigate the physical disability that I have, he takes away a lot of the stress I have as well," he said.
For anyone interested in helping the cause but lacking the financial means to donate, America's VetDogs is actively in need of volunteer "puppy raisers" to socialize soon-to-be service dogs during the first year of their lives.
NBCLA also has a "puppy with a purpose" named Zuma. You can follow Zuma's journey of becoming a service dog here.
If you are a veteran who wants to apply for assistance from a dog, or are interested in volunteering your time for the cause, visit America's vetDogs.