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From Battlefield to Paddle Boarding: A Hero's Journey with Vinnie, the Service Dog

Vinnie Valor


Sergeant First Class Amanda Strimel, USA, ret. is a true American hero. After dedicating 12 years of her life to the service, Amanda was medically retired—although her journey didn't simply end there. Anxiety and PTSD plagued Amanda, particularly in social settings or crowded places. Fortunately, this is when Vinnie—a wonderful service dog trained by Valor Service Dogs in Tampa Bay, Florida—entered the picture.


Amanda and Vinnie have been inseparable since first being partnered together in September 2022. Vinnie has truly had a remarkable impact on Amanda's life, helping her regain her independence and allowing her to do things she hadn't been able to do in years.

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"With Vinnie by her side, Amanda feels comfortable 'in her own skin' and finds the strength to face the world again."

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paddle-boarding & RIDING THE WAVE OF Resilience.

Before Vinnie, certain activities were almost impossible for Amanda. But now, thanks to her loyal companion, she's been able to attend concerts, visit movie theaters without feeling overwhelmed or anxious, and even started paddle-boarding again! Amanda and Vinnie head for water early in the morning when the rest of the family is still asleep, allowing them to enjoy a quiet sunrise together.


"Sometimes we are silly and we play in the water and splash, sometimes he just knows I need to be out enjoying quiet time. It’s like he just knows what I need with out having to saying anything."


Vinnie has an innate ability to sense when Amanda needs support. Whether it's a crowded place or a family gathering, he always knows just what to do. He'll stop Amanda in her tracks, gently touching her leg, urging her to take a deep breath and look around. His presence is truly one of a kind.


Vinnie's impact extends beyond only Amanda’s life, as he has a special connection with Amanda's disabled son and effortlessly gravitates towards everyone he meets. Amanda says that Vinnie seems to understand the needs of those around him and offers affection without hesitation.


Throughout their journey together, it took about ten or eleven months for Amanda to fully realize the profound impact Vinnie had on her life. At times, she would find herself going with the flow and not even realizing how much she needed him until he stepped in to provide his unwavering support.


Together, Amanda and Vinnie have become a symbol of resilience, strength, and the unbreakable bond between a veteran and her service dog. Through Vinnie's companionship and dedication, Amanda has found a new sense of purpose and a renewed zest for life. Their journey together is a testament to the incredible power of the human-animal bond and the invaluable role that service dogs play in supporting those who have served their country.

Sergeant First Class Amanda Strimel

United States Army

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Provide a healing paw and help heal those with physical and emotional challenges through the power of a service dog.

Monthly donors—which we call, "Healing Pawtners"—are the foundation of Project 2 Heal and our mission of reducing the cost and time it takes to place a service dog with a person in need. We're the only nonprofit in the country dedicated to breeding, nurturing, and donating Labrador Retriever puppies to become service dogs for veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilities. Our work can change—and in some cases, save—lives of people in need.

Through your monthly donation of $10, $30, $50 or $100, you provide Project 2 Heal with a consistent and reliable source of funding to allow us to meet our mission.

As a Healing Pawtner You'll Enjoy:

  • Knowledge that your donation will be immediately put to work.

  • Monthly "Pup-Dates" via email.

  • Opportunity to tour and visit our facility.

  • Access to playtime with our service puppies in training.

  • Car magnet to display and show your support.

  • Ability to change or suspend your donation at any time.



make a contribution today

You're just a few clicks away from becoming a Healing Pawtner! Simply choose how often you'd like to give and complete the subsequent form.

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