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Program receives twice the help for military dogs

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By Alix Mattingly

Howls of praise will be ringing out this holiday season thanks to a local veterinary center.

The “Joy to the Woof” program sponsored by the Pewee Valley Veterinary Center has created 25 care packages for military service dogs. In its second year, the program provides specialty gear like goggles and protective booties for the four-legged soldiers.

“Unfortunately they are forgotten a lot of the time,” Carolyne Tilford, a veterinary technician at the center said. “They go through a lot, it’s not easy.”

The packages are sent to Operation Kennel Mom, a non-profit that supports and creates awareness for military dogs working in Afghanistan alongside U.S. and NATO forces, according to its website. The program seeks to supply military working dogs with healthy treats, food and beneficial toys that help avoid injuries and diseases encountered in combat environments.

Donations from the community make the project possible, Tilford said. Sixth-graders at de Paul School in Louisville decided to make “Joy to the Woof” their compassion project this school year.

Compassion projects are carried out by each grade in an area of their choice as a push by the school to civicly engage its students, according to Director of Instruction Phil Howell. Through fundraising, the class raised enough money to sponsor 10 dogs and provide care packages for their handlers, Tilford said.

“We really want it to be more than something nice, we want it to ease suffering,” said Phil Howell.

Additionally, the vet center is looking to expand their program to cover expenses for dogs returning home from service With more troops exiting Afghanistan than entering, an influx of military trained dogs is expected, Tilford said.

“We’re trying to help anyone who is bringing over or adopting a military dog,” Tilford said.

The center will provide free medical care, food and will meet pharmaceutical needs for former military dogs in the area. Soldier dogs, like their two-legged counterparts, are susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder and other health issues, which can prove to be costly according to Operation Kennel Mom. By providing support the center hopes that more military dogs will be adopted, Tilford said.

Care packages were sent out on Saturday, but the center takes donations year-round. Each package costs roughly $800 to fill with specialized gear, toys and food and another $100 to ship. The center hopes donations continue to rise in the coming years. Last year enough donations for 10 packages were gathered. More than double that number, 25 packages are going out this year, and the center will be collecting starting Dec. 23 for next year’s packages.

“There will always be military dogs working somewhere,” Tilford said. “As long as we can be helpful, we’ll continue to donate.”

Email us about this story at amattingly@oldhamera.com.