2022 is a year for the history books of Patriot Service Dogs! This small organization took many big steps over the last twelve months and enjoyed many moments to savor. Before we start 2023 (a year already gearing up to be great), we look back at the top 10 moments of 2022. Of course, this list will inevitably miss the smaller, daily joys and victories made possible by the amazing PSD community. To everyone who volunteered, donated, voted, and cheered on PSD this year, thank you.
The Top 10 are not in any order.
1. Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
Since the founding of Patriot Service Dogs in 2009, the organization has worked towards becoming an ADI Accredited Member—in 2022 we achieved this status! PSD is one of less than 150 assistance dog organizations worldwide to be certified. This status shows that our organization follows the highest standards of care for our dogs, training, and service dog placement. In a world where fake service dog vests and meaningless service dog registries are all too common, ADI certification provides a level of protection for our dogs, volunteers, and veterans.
What does it take to become ADI certified?
- A member organization agreeing to mentor your organization
- Years of candidacy
- Paperwork documenting approved training methods, approved organizational structure, approved matching process, approved follow-up process, and more
- Three-day on-site visit from ADI, including interviews with board members, volunteers, veterans, and veterinary care provider and an on-site visit to the prison program
- Review by the ADI board
2. Defender Service Awards
WE WON! Patriot Service Dogs submitted a video application for Land Rover’s Defender Service Awards three hours before the competition deadline. We hoped, but never let ourselves believe, that we would make the final five. So we are still in shock that we won the whole darn thing!
This victory belongs to everyone who voted for PSD and encouraged their friends to vote. It was amazing to see how our community rallied around us! Thank you all. The Land Rover will be coming in February 2023. The funds awarded to PSD will contribute to our volunteer program and will help replenish our emergency fund (which was significantly depleted by an $8,000 bill to fix our van in the fall and a $6,000 bill to the UF Small Animal Hospital for Rosie’s surgery and care).
3. Service Dog Summer School
In June of 2022, PSD launched the first Service Dog Summer School, and it was a huge success! Our dogs in training spent the summer with fantastic volunteer puppy raisers who made the dogs a part of their lives and families. Many of these summer volunteers have continued volunteering with PSD. We are always looking for new ways to expand our community, and Summer School was a great community building opportunity. Service Dog Summer School 2023 is already in the works!
4. Patriot Service Dogs in the Media
PSD has garnered more media coverage in 2022 than it has in all the previous years combined!
We’ve been in…
Ocala Magazine, Locala Magazine & Podcast, Family Times Magazine, WCJB 20, 352 Preview Spectrum News 13, NPR, WUFT News, News Nation, Alachua Chronicle, The Villages Daily Sun, The Ocala Gazette, The Pride and Groom Dog Blog, Lake County Style Magazine, and The Ocala Star Banner.
5. American Humane Hero Vet Award
Dr. Fagan and her team at Shamrock Animal Hospital are instrumental in the PSD team. They take care of all our dogs in training, from their first vet visit to their final week of advanced training. Many veterans even continue to take their service dogs to Shamrock Animal Hospital after graduation. So, when we learned about the American Humane Hero Vet Awards, we jumped at the chance to nominate Dr. Fagan. Then, in the middle of the Defender Service Awards, we heard the good news! Out of the hundreds of veterinarians nominated, Dr. Fagan won the award.
We see the thought and care Dr. Fagan puts into her patients every time she gets down on the floor to get to know our puppies or squeezes a sick PSD dog into her schedule. It was great to see that effort recognized nationally.
6. Career Changes
Not every dog is meant to be a service dog, but not being a perfect service dog candidate doesn’t mean a dog isn’t the perfect candidate for another job. This year, two PSD dogs made career changes into new lines of work.
- Mattie was accepted into the US Customs Detection Dog program! Today she is completing her training at their training center in Georgia. In the coming months, we will learn where she will be posted with her new handler.
- Richie was accepted by the National Search Dog Foundation to join their Search Dog training in California. NSDF is giving Richie time to get used to his new surroundings and training grounds before officially starting his training in the coming weeks. Their search dog training program is incredible to see—follow them on social media to see for yourself!
Both dogs completed intense evaluations to show their abilities and we are so proud of them.
7. Puppies + The Sisters
CC, Josephine, DuKe, Shannon, Elvis, and Irving all joined us in 2022! New puppies are not just cute (but they are so cute), they carry the hopes of our mission with them. Each new puppy brings the opportunity to help another veteran. It is always an adventure to watch a puppy grow and start to show the signs of its personality and innate skills.
This year we were also joined by Nash and Athena—Millie and Bear’s sisters. PSD very rarely brings a dog over a few months old into our training program, but because we know their breeder, Iron Hill Retrievers, and their littermates, we took the chance, and we are so pleased we did! Nash and Athena are both quickly catching up on their training.
Rescue dogs have always been a part of PSD, but until 2022, we didn’t have a way to highlight them. Whitman’s Warrior Project is a brand-new initiative to sponsor a rescue puppy to be a service dog! Already, the project is bringing new folks and supporters into the PSD community! Patriot Craft Coffee made a K9 Blend to support the WWP, Three Wise Dogs made the Share the Love dog treat to support it, Naomi Shanti from Alchemy Tattoo and Fine Art created a custom logo for it, Shamrock Animal Hospital is behind it, and Polk County Bully Project is waiving their adoption fee and evaluating puppies for it!
The project also allows PSD to recognize our WOOF mascot, Whitman. For years, Whitman has been a beloved member of our team, but he didn’t venture far from his home in the WOOF Program. Now, Whitman is taking his new responsibilities with WWP in stride! He is winning hearts everywhere he goes to spread the word about the project and our project partners.
9. Back to Charlie
Since the WOOF Prison Program began at Lowell Correctional Facility, it has been run out of Charlie Dorm. During 2020, WOOF had to move to the main unit at Lowell. The administration and staff at Lowell did their best to accommodate the unique needs of a dog training program at the main compound, but WOOF was always waiting to go home. This year—thanks to the support of everyone at Lowell—WOOF went home to Charlie Dorm!
The pictures of the dogs who made the move over a year ago were still on the walls in Charlie when our inmate-trainers returned, but only the oldest dogs and our mascot, Whitman, remembered the dorm. It didn’t take long for everyone to settle back in. At Charlie, WOOF has plenty of training room and space to let the dogs play. Many thanks to everyone at Lowell who made the move possible!
10. Five New Veteran/Service Dog Teams
The mission of Patriot Service Dogs is to match quality service dogs with veterans in need. In 2022 five dogs found their veteran and started the next chapter of their lives—Norman, Auggie, Cutter, Captain, and Murphy are all professional service dogs now! The journey from 8-week-old puppy to 2-year-old service dog is filled with ups and downs, moments of pride and frustration, and lots of love. Everyone who joined these five dogs on that journey should be proud of their efforts; we sure are proud of you and service dogs you helped create.