Friday, May 30, 2008

Vetting Vets

Belle and I had the privilege of meeting with officials from two separate but related vets organizations yesterday - Dean Ascheman, the Executive Director of the Disabled American Veterans of MN Foundation and Gilbert Acevedo, Deputy Commissioner Veteran Health Care, State of Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. A good friend of mine, Johnny D had worked with Dean and thought a meeting between us would open doors for both Helping Paws and their organizations. Even better, Johnny D went beyond thought and took the time to arrange the meeting for us.

Minnesota has been at the forefront of developing programs for returning vets to insure their healthy assimilation back into civilian life. Among his responsibilities, Mr. Acevedo is charged with developing a one-stop process to meet veteran's needs. From tax assistance, to healthcare, to housing and everything in between. In the "in between" he sees a place for service dogs (and therapy dogs) for vets.

Prior to coming to Minnesota, Mr. Acevedo was administrator for the California Veterans Home at Chula Vista. On a daily basis, he saw the positive effects for the residents from the therapy and facility dogs that worked and/or lived at the facility. Intrigued with the possibilities, he spent seven years training therapy dogs and was impressed with the skills that Belle demonstrated for him. He also provided a great synopsis for Mr. Ascheman of the difference between service and therapy dogs.

Belle did a great job demonstrating her technical skills, and I talked about her greatest intangible skill - her ability to bridge the gap that opens for an individual when they first find their physical skills compromised. Returning to civilian life is a major adjustment for any vet. For a vet, young or old, that finds him or herself trying to return to civilian life missing a limb(s) or with injuries that compromise their balance and stability, the process is even tougher. Helping Paws dogs have so much to offer these vets. I hope our visit will be the start of an incredible partnership.

1 comment:

Johnny D said...

Just a quick note to let you know how very impressed I was with your demonstration yesterday. Your hard work with Lu Ann over the past two years is really paying off. I counted no fewer than twenty nine separate occasions when you had her do things like toss a door hook or a credit card or a hair brush on the floor ... and you have her perfectly conditioned to say the word "tip" and give you a small sweet treat every time that you return these items to her. Brilliant!

I think that Dean and Gil were equally impressed.. and that they also believe there is a real possibility that you and your canine colleagues could similarly teach other people in their respective organizations.

Well Done Belle!