Meet our volunteer Richie Patton, one of the newest members of our Project 2 Heal family! Like many of our volunteers, Richie enjoys spending time with our puppies and helping to exercise the older dogs. As he stated early in our discussion, Richie is a former veterinarian's kennel boy... 72 years ago! Additionally, as a former Medic in the U.S. Army, Richie has a certain empathy for veterans struggling with PTSD and physical disability.
"Especially toward those who have been wounded either physically or mentally and need a service dog... I really feel the situation for them."
Volunteering to Make New Memories and Remember Old Friends.
For Richie, volunteering not only gives him a chance to help nurture and exercise our future service dogs, but it reminder him of a dog named Chico he owned as a teenage, who helped Richie during a difficult time in his life.
More than 60 years after Chico's passing, Richie says he still thinks of his dog every day.
Project 2 Heal: "Could you tell us a bit about Chico? Why does he continue to cross your mind each day, more than 60 years later?"
Richie Patton: "I was blessed as a troubled, angst-filled teen to have as a friend, partner, protector, and emotional crutch a large, mixed-breed, shepherd, type dog I named Chico. (I started studying Spanish as a freshman in high school."
"Looking back some 71 years, although I didn't know it at the time, I needed a "caregiver" animal. Chico, who I raised and trained from a just-weaned pup, was the quintessential, "Best Friend Forever." Aside from just being there in my neediest times and palpably empathizing with me, he saved me from physical harm, if not death, twice. Over the years, I have thought of him most every day. Like a unique human friend, I miss him more than I can describe."
Sharing the Spirit of Chico through a New Story.
Richie has immortalized the spirit, personality, and manner of his amazing dog Chico as a character named, "Corker," in his six-part e-book series entitled, "Paddy O' & Curly Slim." His series includes the elements of coming-of-age, love, adventure, and on a final, semi-autobiographic note, the main character becomes a veterinarian!
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Training and Nurturing Puppies at Project 2 Heal:
At Project 2 Heal, we breed Labrador Retriever puppies for the purpose of donating these animals at 8 to 12 weeks of age to one of our partner organizations. From there, our puppies are trained extensively in service dog work and matched with an individual in need.
Our process begins with Early Neurological Stimulation, which are exercises conducted during the first two weeks of life—beginning at only 48 hours after birth!—that slightly stress the puppy's nervous system and allow them to become less reactive to novel stimuli as adults. This process includes the following:
Tactile stimulation: Stimulating puppy paws through touch our tickling.
Holding the head of the puppy erect.
Holding the head of the puppy pointed downward.
Supine position: Resting the puppy on its back in the palm of hands.
Thermal Stimulation: Placing feet of puppy on top of a cool, damp towel and allowing the puppy to move about.
Service Dog Scent Training:
Also occurring during the first 14 days, service dog training includes a process called early scent introduction. This training exposes dogs to smells it will encounter during working life. During this process, trainers pay close attention to the way puppies react to various smells. This helps identify which puppies may not be suited to work as a service dog.
Service Dog Clicker Training:
Championed by Karen Prior Academy, clicker training service dogs is a method that teaches puppies about associations. Puppies learn commands through a combination of rewards and clicking sounds. During service dog training, high-level tasks are broken into smaller tasks, after which puppies are rewarded with food and stimulated with sound from a handheld clicker.
Eventually food and clicking sounds are phased out so that puppies are able to execute tasks upon command.
Our mission is to reduce the cost and time necessary to place a service dog with a veteran, child with special needs, or adult with disabilities.
How Can You Help Further Our Mission?
When you donate only $5 per month, your contribution covers important expenses, including:
First vet visit for entire litter
50 pounds of high-quality dog
1 puppy eye exam
6 bags of high-value reward training treats
1 puppy-in-training service dog vest
As you can see, there are a number of ways that $5 monthly donations can make a real impact at Project 2 Heal. With an average cost of $5,000 to raise and train a puppy litter of puppies through the first 8 weeks of life, we'd love for you to join us on our mission.
You can become a donor at any level that works for you. We need your help to raise puppies and change lives.
Our bread and butter (or should we say, "kibble?"), these donors cover items listed above, including first vet visits!
Each of our $10 monthly donors feeds an entire litter from birth to donation. (That's a lot of puppy food!)
$25 a month prevents fleas and ticks for a pup. With 30+ puppies expected in 2021, these donors mean the world!