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We’re immensely grateful to Wells Fargo Bank for gifting ADW $2500 last October for our Warrior Canine Connection™ program. Thank you, Wells Fargo!

Partnering with the Second Judicial District Veterans’ Court in Albuquerque, ADW is the only assistance dog organization in the United States to be delivering a pilot program of the Warrior Canine Connection™ curriculum, “Canine Connection Therapy,” in a court-ordered form. This specialized and highly researched methodology, which WCC™ operates at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, teaches veterans to train service dogs to help their fellow veterans.

The powerful curriculum succeeds with veterans where many other post-deployment treatment modalities have failed. It specifically helps them to re-forge deep connections “with life, their families, their communities and each other,” the WCC™ website reports.

For ADW, WCC™ is a core of ADW’s One Dog: Many People programs and a critical way that we are pioneering the training of service dogs to transform thousands of lives. The healing power of the dogs and the reconnections they facilitate are profound.

At ADW’s program in Albuquerque, veterans meet on Mondays to learn how to train service dogs. The veterans admitted into our program have been selected through their involvement in the justice system through Veterans’ Court, where Judge Stan Whitaker presides.

“The large majority of our participating vets in our program have some form of PTSD,” Judge Whitaker said.

“I think this program has had a tremendous impact on these guys,” he continued. “It’s wonderful to see their self-esteem, their confidence and excitement that they have shown after having started the program. It’s just amazing to see that transformation. To see their excitement to be here on Mondays, their excitement to work with the dogs is just tremendous.”

Ginger Varcoe and a relaxed pup. Photo: Bonnie Cooper

Ginger Varcoe and a relaxed pup. Photo: Kim Cooper

“We have our advanced group and we have our brand new participants,” explained Ginger Varcoe, Veterans Court Coordinator. “We have two gentlemen who are Vietnam veterans. We have Iraq veterans, Gulf War veterans and Afghanistan veterans here with us.” Varcoe asserted that many strong relationships form among the veterans.

“Our participants are mentoring each other. Advanced participants are working with the new participants on how to learn the beginning training techniques of the dogs,” Varcoe said.

You start with a puppy that’s been purpose-bred for temperament, health and strength.

Puppies in ADW’s WCC™ classes start out a little noisy, with the contagion of young dogs barking excitedly to see their new trainer friends. The vets take out the grooming tools; the dogs get really really quiet. You can literally hear a pin drop as this connection through touch with the animal heals in such a deep way.

Training the dogs also renews the veterans’ sense of purpose. They report as much.

The veterans form bonds with each other.

The veterans form bonds with each other. Photo: Kim Cooper

Luis Sandoval, United States Army, said he was privileged meet retired General Gilbert Baca, an Army Ranger, when he visited class.

“I’d seen a lot of generals in parades, but I’d never met one face to face, so it was a real honor.”

Sandoval continued, “I have 100% PTSD, I tend to isolate a lot and have a lot of anxiety. When I come to work with the dogs, it’s very therapeutic for me, it calms me, and the fact that it’s on a Monday, it gets my week to a great start.”

He is already mentoring one of the new trainers after spending six months learning training himself.

This entire program demonstrates just the magic of one dog in changing thousands of lives.

Veterans’ Court Coordinator Varcoe said, “We’re the only program doing this work in the United States outside of Walter Reed.

“It would be great if we could become the model to follow and go forward with allowing other Veterans’ Courts to implement the program,” she added.

In this, ADW’s 20th year, it’s our hope to expand our WCC™ program to serve 25 veterans and to place five veteran-trained service dogs with wounded warriors.

Veterans who have been working with the dogs mentor other veterans. Photo: Kim Cooper

Veterans who have been working with the dogs mentor other veterans. Photo: Kim Cooper

To this end we are asking for your support. We have a goal of seeing $2000 pledged in contributions from our supporters between now and the end of July. Join with Wells Fargo’s support for our dogs and our veterans! Click here to become a canine champion and make a recurring monthly donation as we turn 20!

“I wish we had the opportunity to have more of our vets with substantial PTSD participating,” Judge Whitaker said.
This is your chance to see that happen. The power is in your hands.