The following is a letter from our President & Founder, Charlie Petrizzo:
Dear Project 2 Heal Community,
Looking back at 2022, it’s clear to me that Project 2 Heal has reached an inflection point. We’re currently the only nonprofit in the country dedicated to increasing the availability of a service dog through expert husbandry and nurturing of world-class puppies, purpose-bred and donated to be trained by service dog organizations nationwide. Unfortunately, the need for our work only continues to increase.
To meet the great challenges faced by the service dog industry, we must continue to expand our community and impact. As Founder, I’ve experienced our highs and lows firsthand over the past 12 years. With this in mind, I can honestly say Project 2 Heal has never been better prepared to grow into an organization that can meet these significant challenges head-on.
In terms of leadership, I firmly believe that we’ve never been stronger. Our Board of Directors has been elevated to include brilliant executive minds with vast corporate experience and networking abilities. We’ve invested in a partnership with PMA Consultants, an acclaimed nonprofit development firm assisting in fundraising and strategic planning—the latter being a first in our history as a nonprofit. Additionally, we’ve developed exciting relationships with first-time sponsorship partners like the Gary Sinise Foundation to expand our national impact.
Making an Impact through Our Mission & Momentum.
To be frank, there is a palpable sense of momentum in the air. Plus, moving forward we will expand upon our mission of increasing the availability of a service dog by striving to empower our nation’s veterans to participate in this rewarding work. We aim to one day develop an educational program for veterans reentering civilian life to learn the trade of service dog training, providing an opportunity for healing themselves while training service dogs for their brothers and sisters in arms.
As I mentioned, the challenges we face are great—which means our solutions must be even greater. As President, I truly believe that we’re laying the groundwork necessary to develop into the organization we must become to properly serve our nation’s many deserving veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilities.
All of this will take funding—each of you can play a vital role in the growth of this organization, and in turn change the lives of countless people in need.
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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 or 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.
You Can Heal a Veteran & Honor a Loved One.
It can take up to 4 years and between $25,000—$40,000 to provide a life-changing service dog to a veteran struggling with PTSD or loss of limb. But it doesn't have to be this way. Project 2 Heal is a nonprofit working to reduce the cost and time needed to provide a service dog to someone in need. We accomplish this by breeding, nurturing, and donating world-class Labrador Retriever puppies to become service dogs for veterans, children with special needs, or adults with disabilities.
By joining our Healing Pawtners, you have the chance to dedicate every donation you make to honor a loved one. Your monthly contribution of $10, $30, or $50 will provide a consistent and reliable source of funding to help us meet our mission. Your support will help nurture our puppies' growth and development, as we prepare them to literally change lives as future service dogs. To show our appreciation for your support, you'll receive:
Opportunity to honor a loved one through your charitable giving.
One "paw-tograph" from a Project 2 Heal puppy.
Professional family photo of each Project 2 Heal litter of future service dogs.
Access to visits with future service dogs at the Project 2 Heal facility.
Updates on puppy progress as our puppies are donated to service dog partner organizations.
"Healing Pawtners" car magnet to proudly display.