Dogs to Follow on Facebook

Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.

~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

I follow several dogs on Facebook. Some are devoted to social causes, all are ambassadors for  goodwill and kindness. They give me something to smile about on days I might rather be under the covers.

I follow pages that interact with people on their timelines and encourage and inspire their communities. They have followings large and small and deserve every “like” they have. Here are the first five of ten I will list in two posts:

1. Ray Charles the Golden Retriever:

ray charles

Ray Charles is a two-year old golden retriever that was
born blind. According to Ray, who speaks through his page, he believes he was born blind  so that he could help inspire others who are born with physical/mental disabilities to always live their lives to the fullest and do as much as they can with what they are given.

Follow Ray   

2. SSD Honza: SD Honza is a yellow lab who served seven years with the United States Army. While on active duty SSD Honza deployed to Afghanistan and saved countless lives locating over 400lbs of explosives during his year long deployment. SSD Honza has conducted security sweeps for the President and Vice-President, Dignitaries and countless others. He is now retired and living with his handler in Pennsylvania.

honza dog“SSD Honza helped keep our troops alive in Afghanistan, but he has also been an ambassador of goodwill towards the sick and injured. In this picture he was in the middle of training for a deployment to Afghanistan, SSD Honza when took some time from his day to allow a little boy with cancer to fulfill his dream of becoming a Soldier. Wes Pak was made an Honorary K9 handler, and helped SGT. Nolan and SSD Honza complete the obedience course!”

I know and appreciate both John and Honza. Their story is featured in the eook In Dogs We Trust via a story by war dog author and advocate Kevin Hanrahan.

SSD Honza 

3. Surf Dog Richochet: Is an “internationally renowned, award winning, 6 year old golden retriever therapy and surf dog who has become an inspirational phenomenon, philanthropic role model, internet sensation, fundraising marvel, community advocate, goodwill ambassador, and muse to millions!”

surf dogRicochet has been in movies, on TV, on billboards, in Times Square, in commercials, and in hundreds of media sources including the Oprah Winfrey Network, People Magazine, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Evening News With Diane Sawyer, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and many more….

Surf Dog raises funds & awareness for human/animal causes like wounded warrior service dogs. To date Ricohet has raised $300,000 and a million bowls of food for needy animals.

Surf Dog Ricochet


4. Charlie Boy:

“Charlie Boy was trained by The Seeing Eye to guide U.S. Army Sergeant Major Acosta who was blinded after shrapnel ripped through his head in Iraq charlie boyin 2006. When Charlie Boy started guiding the sergeant major in 2007, his master began to share his own freedom by soothing wounded service members with PTSD & serving as an example of overcoming their injuries. Charlie Boy escorts the Sergeant Major throughout the help him raise funds for injured warriors. In addition, to guiding the Sgt. Major through airports, he also visits incarcerated prisoners throughout Southern California. This 125-pound German Shepherd allows his master to travel to and participate in bike rides & even golf tournaments as well as events where his veteran is a motivational speaker & an advocate for wounded warriors.”

Follow Charlie Boy

5. Service Dog in Training Ice:

I know Ice personally and LOVE this goofy pup.

Ice Service Dog“Ice is a golden retriever puppy in training for My Angel With Paws, a service dog organization that trains dogs for people with disabilities. He will spend up to the first 2 years of his life with me, his puppy raiser. Then he will return the main facility for final training and placement with his forever person. It is unknown as of now what type of service dog he will be but he could possibly help someone in a wheelchair, someone who needs a brace dog, someone who has seizures, the list goes on and on. It all depends how big he gets and what skills he can do.”

You will love this page as much as I do. Sarah his trainer is a gifted photographer.

Follow Ice


And while I won’t list Gander in the top ten, I do hope you will follow him of you don’t already:

GanderGander was rescued from a shelter in Pueblo, Colorado where I was born. He was trained in a women’s prison at Canon City, Colorado and later selected for training by Freedom Service Dogs and paroled to me in Chicago after we trained three weeks together. We now travel the country and advocate for veteran suicide prevention, and PTSD and service dog awareness.

Gander is featured in the book In Dogs We Trust and this blog chronicles his adventures. As of the writing, Gander has 215,000 friends on Facebook.

Follow Gander

The Great Frog-Dog Beard Off

Frog dog beard offAn Epic inter-service, inter-species battle to raise awareness about veteran suicide, service dogs and PTSD.

Gander, a 3 1/2 year old Labradoodle is a battle buddy for an Army veteran in Chicago. Gander, with an online community of over 300,000 friends distinguished himself as a real hero when he saved a young girl last year from a charging stray and now does triple duty as a therapy dog, service dog and PTSD/suicide awareness advocate. he visits VA hospitals, nursing homes and hospices around the country. Rescued from death row in Colorado, Gander was trained by a prison program and then paroled to Freedom Service Dogs in Denver and trained for service as a mobility and PTSD dog. Gander is listed as co-curator for, In Dogs We Trust, a collection of inspirational dog stories by NYT bestselling authors.

Seal Doggy Dog

Rob DuBois is a speaker, teacher, coach and consultant who was labeled a “smart power authority” while assisting U.S., British and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. He is a multilingual Navy SEAL with operational experience in more than thirty countries. Rob is author of the book, Powerful Peace.

Rob has presented his “Think like the Adversary” workshop to military units in the hottest combat zones, Fortune 500 corporate customers, and government agencies. He has served on the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Senior Integration Group and directed operations for the DoD’s Red Team. Founder and CEO of SEAL of Peace Consulting, he lives with his family in the Washington, DC area and works anywhere on the planet.

The contest will run from March 1 to March 20th online. You can vote for the Navy Frog or the Army Dog at and add pictures of your own bearded companion, “bearding” photos or best human/dog pair shot. Prizes will be handed out daily and grand prize winners announced on March 20th in Denver at the Watering Bowl, a dog friendly pub. The loser of the contest will have all hair, except his trademark beard, shorn off.

The event will coincide with a book signing for In Dogs We Trust with five of the book’s author’s on hand and several invited celebrities. All proceeds from the event will benefit dog and veteran charities. Celebrity Emcee for the event will be Mark German of Leader of the Pack Radio 

Follow the events on Facebook at or here

Follow Rob at

gander dog


Let the games begin!!


And remember to upload your pics and vote for your favorite beard at


List of Service Dog Agencies

service dog agency listFollowing is an alphabetical list of service dog providers in the U.S. and a couple from Canada.

Please help us update the list by adding any organization you know, not here in the comment section below. Thank you!

This is a preliminary attempt to create a solid database of resources for people who hope to apply for service dogs. Soon we will have it searchable by State, Services Provided and so on.

Many agencies have sprung up in the last three to five years and I would like to add them in and would like to include more information on each of these groups.

If you know of a group we missed or have corrections for this list, please add a comment at the end of this post and we will index it ASAP.

Please include: Name, Address, Contact information, Type of Training (DIY, ect…) and client target population (Veterans, Hearing Impaired, Autism….).

Later I hope to include costs, waiting time, and other pertinent information. Thank you! to Maryann Helpern for researching and compiling this initial list.

Adler Assistance Dogs

contact: Wendy Ender

Po Box 9728

Denver, Colorado 80209

Phone # 303-722-0327


AIM HI Service Dog Training center

(Animals in the military Helping Individuals)

North Plains District Vet. Command

Service Dog Center National Headquarters

833 McClellen Ave.

Fort Leavenworth,Kansas 66027

( military vets and their families only)


AIM HI Service DOg Training Center



Pam Oughton, Director

Service Dog Training Center

Bldg.1489 Eisenhower Ave.

Fort Knox, Kentucky, 40121

phone# 502-624-8986


Alert Service Dogs



9036 Buckeye Court

Indianapolis, Indiana, 46260

phone #- 800-518-1810

fax# 1-800-518-5144


Alpha K-9


7500 14th Ave.#21

Sacramento, California 95820

phone # 916-400-4337


Angel Service Dogs

PO Box 2756

Monument, Colorado,80132


Anything’s Pawzible

1330W North Ave,Chicago Illinois, 60622



Anything’s Pawzible

118 Madison ave

Cuyanoga Falls, Ohio


Arizona Goldens,LLC


PO Box 40776

Mesa,Arizona 40776


(emotional- autism service dogs)


Assistance Dogs of Hawaii

PO Box 474


Phone# 808-889-0166


Barking Angels


contact:Joe Giambione

7644 W.Dickens

Elmwood Park,Illinois 60707

Phone# 312-504-5225


Battle Buddies(USA)

c/o Steven Frye

PO Box 922, Newport ,Rhode Island 02840



Battle Buddy Foundation


8859 Cincinnati_Dayton Rd. Suite 202

Olde West Chester, Ohio 45069



Blessings Unleashed Foundation

PO Box 1743

Glasgow, Kentucky 42142

phone # 270-670-4000

(autism service dogs)


Baltimore Service and assistance Dog Club


6 St. Paul St. suite 902

Baltimore,MD 21202




Canadian Service Dog Foundation



phone# 613-914-2733



Canines 4 Hope

Canines 4 Hope

Jason DeVito

Palm City, Florida



Canine Angels Service Dogs
98 Shadow Moss Place
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29578
Phone | 917-575-6235

“We serve local veterans

in the coastal Carolinas and those

who can come here for training. ”

Canine Angels

Canine Angels

PO Box 526

Diamond Bar, CA 91765



Canine Angels

Canine Angels

13475 N.Applegate Rd.

Grants Pass,OR 97527



Canine Battle Buddy

Canine Battle Buddy

8859 Cincinnati- Dayton Rd.Suite 202

Olde West Chester, Ohio 45069



Canine Companions for Independence

Debra Dougherty

North East Reg. training Facility

286 Middle Island Rd.

Medford,NY 11763

phone# 1-800-572-2275


Canine Assistants

A non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs to enhance and improve the lives of children and adults who have physical disabilities, seizure conditions or other special needs.
3160 Francis Road
Milton, Georgia 30004
Toll Free: 800-771-7221
Fax: 770-664-7820

Addtional info: The PBS special, and the book it was based on, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” was based on this organization.


Canine Companions For Independence

Nicole Mouton, Exec.Director,NW

PO Box 446

Santa Rosa,CA 94502



Canine Companions for Independence

8150 Clarcona Ocoee Rd.


phone# 407-522-3300


Canine Companions For Independence

SW Campus

PO Box 4568

Oceanside CA 92052

phone#-760-901-4300 or 1-800-572-BARK


Canine Canine Partners of the Rockies


Canine Partners of the Rockies

c/o Linda Port

PO Box 460214

Denver, CO 80246

phone# 303-364-9040


Canine Partners For Life

canine Partners for Life

PO Box 170

Cochranville,PA 19330

phone- 610-869-4902

Fax- 610-869-9785


Canine Working Partners

Canine working Partners

PO Box 2128

Syracuse, NY 13220




Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance

1802 Silver Pine Cir.

Mechanicsburg, Pa,17050


Coalition for the Empowerment of Patriots, Inc.
Pets Empowering Patriots Program (A service dog therapy program for Veterans with PTSD, TBI, MST and/or physical disabilities)
P.O. Box 117
Griffith, IN 46319

Canines for Veterans

Canines For Service

PO box 12643

Wilmington, NC 28405

phone# 910-362-8181 or 1-866-910-3647

Coalition for the Empowerment of Patriots, Inc.
Pets Empowering Patriots Program (A service dog therapy program for Veterans with PTSD, TBI, MST and/or physical disabilities)
P.O. Box 117
Griffith, IN 46319

Companions For Heroes

Companions For Heroes

PO Bx 7328

Fairfax Station, Va. 22039


Daffron Doghouse
DaffronDoghouse Owner Training Program
Ph# 913-523-6034

Discovery Dogs

Discovery Dogs

c/oSheri Denhower

PO Box 6050

San Rafael,CA.94903

phone# 415-479-9557



Dogs Ears& Paws

Dogs Ears & Paws

c/o Maria Ikenberry

PO Box 3443

Chapel Hill,NC 27515



Dogs Ears & Paws

Dogs Ears & Paws

c/o Debbie Winkler

5399 Enterprise St.

Sykesville,MD 21784

phone# 410-655-2858 or 410-552-5052

Dogs for the Deaf

Phone: (541) 826-9220 or toll free outside of Oregon 1-800-990-3647

Mail: 10175 Wheeler Road, Central Point, Oregon 97502


Canines for Service

PO Box 12643

Wilmington,NC 28405

phone# 1-866-9103647 or 910-362-8181



Dogs For Disabilities

Dogs for Disabilities

PO Box 537

Batavia,Ill. 60510


Dogs With A Mission

Dogs With A Mission

c/o Jolanthe Wignholds

PO Box 40266


phone# 202-669-8316

Fax 202-363-6595



Dogs Help

Dogs Help

c/o Myra Fourwinds

401 LaBore Rd #115

Little Canada, Minn. 55117

phone# 763-753-6260


Dublin Dog Foundation: Service Dog Charity

Dublin Dog Foundation: Service Dog charity

1435 W. Morehead St.

Charlotte, NC




Elite K-9 Academy

Jeanne or Nick Kutsukas

18291 126th Terr. N.

Jupiter, Fla.

phone# 561-575-3144


East Coast Asst.Dogs(Service Dogs)

East Coast Assistance Dogs

Lu Picard

PO Box 831

Torrington, Connecticut 06790

phone# 860-489-6550

Fax- 860-489-3791



Fidos for Freedom,Inc.

client services:clients@fidosforfreedom

Fidos for Freedom

1200 Sandy Springs,


phone# 410-880-4178 or 301-490-4005

Fax 301-490-0906


Freedom Service Dogs

Freedom Service Dogs

2000 W.Union Ave.

Englewood,CO 80110-5567






Gold Str Dog Training

Gold Star Training

c/o Eric Sanders

Parumph,Nevada, 89060

phone# 702-497-7229


Great Plains Assistance Dogs

Great Plains Assistance Dogs

c/o mike Goehring

PO Box 513

Jud, ND 58454

phone 701-685-2242

Fax- 701-685-2290




Handi-Dogs(service dogs)


75 S.Montego Dr.

Tucson, Arizona 85710


fax- 520-319-8186


Happy Tails Service Dogs,Inc

c/o Joyce Weber

One West Sequoia Drive

Phoenix, Arizona 85027

phone# 623-580-0946


Hawaii Canines for Independence

Hawaii Canines for Independence

c/o Mo Mauer

PO Box 790626

Pala, Hawaii 96779


H4 – Hounds Helping Heroes Heal

(Creating a healthier future for U.S. Military Veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by pairing them with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or PTSD Service Dog that has been rescued from a shelter.)

P.O. Box 153

Mansfield, TX. 76063



Hero Dogs- Service Dogs for america’s Heroes

Hero Dogs( service Dogs for America’s Heroes)

PO Box 64

Brookeville, MD 20833

Phone & Fax- 1-888-570-8653




Independence Dogs

Independence Dogs

c/o M.Jean King

146 State Line Rd.

Chadsford, PA 19317






K-9 Service Dogs of New Jersey

K-9 Service Dogs of NJ

Oradell,NJ 07649

phone# 201-200-4368



Karosel Service Dogs

Karosel Service Dogs

c/o Shirlee Walker

4805 DesChamps Lane

Missoula, Montana 59808

phone# 406-543-7672


Keystone Human Services

Keystone Human Services

124 Pine Street

Harrisburg, PA 17101

phone# 717-232-7509

toll free- 1-800-377-6504




Lonestar Assistance Dog Service(LADS)

Lonestar Assistance Dog Service

c/o Vivian Ausmus

PO Box 1528

Azle,Texas, 76098



Loving Paws Assistance Dog

LOving Paws Assistance Dog

c/o Linda Jennings

PO Box 12005

SantaRosa,CA 94506





Makana Aloha Foundation

Asst. Dogs of Hawaii

Makana Aloha Foundation

c/o Will & Mo Maurer

PO Box 1803

Makawao,Hawaii 96768

phone# 808-298-0167


Midwest Assistance Dogs,Inc.

c/o Mark Halasz

PO Box 1891

S.Bend Indiana,46634

phone# 574-272-7677




Nanhall Training Center

c/o Frances Shatner Keys

2206 Martin Luther King Dr.

Greensboro, NC 27406

phone# 919-272-6584


New Horizons Service Dogs/the Lost Tree Charitable Fund

New Horizons Service Dogs

11520 Lost Tree Way

North Pam Beach, Fla. 33408

phone# 561-622-3780

Fax# 561-626-5885


New Life Mobility Assistance Dogs


PO Box 659

Moravian Falls, NC 28654

phone# 336-838-2215


Next Step Service Dogs

Next Step West Coast Chapter

PO Box 130487

Carlsbad,CA 92011

phone#768-438-9190 or 858-945-2455

Sally Montrucchio- training Dir. – West Coast leader


Next Step service Dogs

NJ Branch

no info

would call the west coast branch for info


North Star Foundation

North Star Foundation

attn: Patty Dobbs Gross, Exec. Director

20 Deerfield Lane

Storrs, Connecticut,




Northwest Battle Buddies

Northwest Battle Buddies

PO Box 2511

Battle Ground, Washington,98604





4 Paws for Ability


4 pawsforability

253 Dayton Ave

Xenia,Ohio 45385

phone# 937-374-0385 or 937-708-6677


Paws Abilities

c/o Glen Martin

3735 Big Flat Rd.

Missoula,montana 59804

phone# 406-549-0221


Paws & Stripes


Paws for Freedom

10580 Barkley St. suite 455

Overland Park,Kansas,66212

phone# 913-901-9400


Paws for Purple Hearts

Paws for Purple Hearts

PO Box 50275

Arlington, VA 22205

phone#202-681-9575 or 707-238-5110


Paws for Purple Hearts

5860 Labeth Avenue suite A

Rohnert Park,CA 94928

phone# 202-681-9575 or 707-238-5110


Penny’s from Heaven Foundation,Inc.

Penny’s from Heaven Foundation, Inc.

13423 Blanco Rd. Suite 218

San Antonio, Texas, 78216



Pets for Vets-Houston

Pets For Vets

Jessica Devitt- Pres.

7941 Katy Freeway #175

Houston, Texas 77024



Pets for Vets-Chicago_Ill.

Pets for Vets Chicago

345W. Canal St #C0001

Chicago,Illinois 60606



Pets for Vets-Wilmington,NC

409 Black Diamond Drive

Wilmington,NC 28411

phone# I would call the Houston or Chicago #’s

as it looks like there are many divisios_ but not always full info. ( check for one near you)


Paws with a Cause

Paws with a cause corp. office

1235 100th St S.E.

Bryon Center, Michigan 49315

phone# 616-696-0688 or 1-800-253-PAWS




c/o Mark Castillo

1544 Avohill Dr.

Vista,CA 92084

phone# 877-223-3647


Puppies Behind Bars ( service dogs for vets)

Puppies Behind Bars

126 W 38th St. 4th floor

New York, NY 10018

phone# 212-680-9562 or 212-689-9330


Puppy Jake Foundation

Puppy Jake Foundation

c/o Becky Beach

4020 John Lynde Rd.

Des Moines, Iowa 50312

phone# 515-490-9766




Sam Simon Charitable Foundation

Sam Simon Charitable Foundation

c/o Jannelle Hackman

30765 Pacific Coast Highway #113

Malibu, CA 90265


(hearing dogs)


Semper Fido

Semper Fido

131 KenilworthRd

Marlton, NJ 08053

phone# 1-856-810-3923


Service Dog Express

FB:Sevice Dog Express

Service Dogs Express

207 Willow Grove Drive

San Antonio,Texas 7824



Service Dogs For America

ServiceDogs For america

920 Short Street

Jud, NOrth Dakota 58454


Service Dogs of America

Service Dogs of America

c/o Pres. Jack Rayl

PO Box 228

Nitoa, Tennessee 37826


Service Dogs of Virginia

Service Dogs of America

PO Box 408

Charlottesville, Va. 22902

phone# 434-295-9503


Service Dog Project


Service Dog Project

37 Boxford rd.

Ipswich, Maine 01938

Phone# 978-356-0666


Service Dog Training Programs

Working Like Dogs

PO Box 4578

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

phone# 1-866-445-3647


Service Dogs-Tackett Services

Service Dogs-Tackett Services

PO Box 2461

Orange,CA 92859



Service Pets for Service Vets

Pets for Service Vets

12 Port Access Rd.

Erie, PA 16507



Shore Service Dogs

PO Box 2251

Salisbury, MD 21802

phone- cost too high for provider

please e-mail for info


Soldiers Best Friend_ Arizona

Soldiers Best Friend

5955 W.Peoria Ave.#6242

Glendale, Arizona,85312




St.Francis Service Dogs

S. Francis service Dogs

PO Box 19538

Roanoke,VA 24019

phone# 540-342-3647(DOGS)

fax 540-342-0906


Sterling Service Dogs

Sterling Service Dogs

3715 E.Fifteen Mile rd.

Sterling Heights, michigan 48310





Susquehanna Service Dogs

Susquehanna service Dogs

555 LeSentier Lane

Harrisburg, PA 17112






Tender Loving Canines-Service Dogs(TLCAD)


PO Box 1244

Solana Beach,CA 92075



Fax 858-461-6846


The Spirit Training Center- Home Of TLCAD

(all ifo above the same except address)

1250 Activity Drive Suite A

Vista, CA 92081


The Carlson Company(Service Dogs)

The Carlson Company

2305 Daniels st.

Madison Wisconsin,53718

phone#608-222-4540 ext.123


The Good Dog Foundation

The Good Dog Foundation

PO Box 1484

NY,NY 10276

phone# 888-859-9992





USA Battle Buddies

only info found is an e-mail address




Vets Adopt Pets(service dogs)

Vets Adopt Pets

PO Box 15041

SanFrancisco, CA 94115




WAGS/Vicon Kennels

C/o Connie Standley

36436 Calhoun rd.

Eustis, Florida 32736

phone: 352-482-3988


Warrior Dog Foundation

warriorDog Fund

PO Box 108

Cooper, Texas 75432



Wilderwood Service Dogs

Wilderwood Service Dogs

139 Tuckaleechee Tr.

Maryville,Tennesse 37803

phone#& fax 865-660-0095

Tiffany Denyer,Ex. Director


Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs,Inc.


c/o Carla Coleman

1338 Dewey Circle




Wisconsin Correctional Liberty Dog Program

warden-Dan Bertrand-Daniel

sister Pauline-

Robert Kent -Robert

Superintendent Bob Kent

Sanger B Powers Correctional

N8375 County Line Rd.Oneida, Wisconsin 54155-9300

Phone# 920-869-1095


Wounded Warrior Project

4899 Belfort Rd, Suite 300

Jacksonville, Florida 32256

Phone 877-team-WWP(832-6997



There are about 15 contact offices in 15 states-

go to

when in go to contact us: you will see the contacts



The King of Sadness

“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the peGander Dogrished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”

― Marilynne Robinson


My wife calls me the King of Sadness. She won’t read anything I write if she is not in a place where she can safely cry. While she sees the need for me to be cathartic and to give others permission to grieve the losses in their life by being honest about my own, she begs me to write more stories of joy and celebration. I think I do. Let me explain….

Today in the lobby of the hotel where we stay while I am receiving care at the VA, a long-term resident overheard me imploring the desk clerk and manager to look out the back door. There, autumn had gently pushed aside summer, the temperature was a perfect 65 degrees and the sun was burning away a sweet fog that had been gently communing with the pond around which Gander walks every morning.

The resident, who for as long as I have known him, has been full of anger and is known for being disgruntled and volatile and feared as mentally unstable. He has more than one sadly descriptive nickname. We parted ways after he once reached down in an attempt to strike Gander when he thought Gander might brush against him. He hates dogs and has fabricated stories to management in an attempt to get them banned from the hotel. If I thought he could be trusted with an animal, I think there is no human more in desperate need of a pet than this man.

Another guest asked our hotel curmudgeon today what everyone was going to look at outside. His reply: “Nothing. Just a little fog on the pond.” His disconnection from the beauty, only a few steps away, refreshed in me an understanding of things I had desperately needed to comprehend.

That “little fog” today, surrendered itself to a beautiful day, and took with it some of the pain and confusion I had been feeling. At the BMW Golf Championships yesterday, Gander and I were both emotionally and physically bruised when a crush of people eager to get an autograph from Tiger Woods pinned us against a retention fence. We were collecting the autographs on a flag to donate to Freedom Service Dogs to auction at their fund raiser this coming weekend. Tiger, afraid of the consequences of staying much longer stopped signing one person short of our position which we had staked out for almost two hours. We left the course almost immediately. On the way home I thought through my day. A few hours earlier, Phil Mickelson’s press agent had responded to my request to take a pic of him and Gander for an upcoming article about the PGA and wounded warriors by saying that Phil felt if he couldn’t take pictures with all vets he would take pictures with no vets. I was licking my pride induced wounds when I heard the news of the shooting in Washington. I quickly wrote a Facebook update: “The more I am around people, the more I love my dog.” My wife reported to me today that I kept her awake as I fought the demons of the day through a fitful night.

There was a book on the market several years ago entitled, The One Minute Meditator. At first glance you might react cynically and believe it to be a cheap pop culture attempt at mindfulness. Not so. In a country where TV news hopes to consume the better parts of our day with polarizing and demoralizing information; where we have lowered our heads six inches, below where it could be in appreciation of the beauty around us, in order to search for “likes” or another SMS; where a Phil Michelson, who makes more in a week than my father, a decorated hero who gave his life for his country made in a lifetime cut short by war, hasn’t time for a picture; where I have seen my government lower the flags to half-mast more in the last 13 years to honor those lost to mass murder than I saw it lowered the whole of the rest of my life in celebration of those who served us, it is important for us to start finding the pleasure in simple acts…

We would do well to drop what we are doing for a moment of silence, or to savor the taste of something delicious in our mouths, or to close our eyes for sixty seconds and let music translate the words our hearts desperately want everyone to understand, to watch a sunrise, or to stroke the fur of an appreciative pet….

How many suicides could be averted? How many could we lift out of depression? How many innocent souls could remain here on earth instead of being violently sent early on their journey to whatever awaits us beyond this life? To how many could we give a moment of pleasure before they are caught up again in the din and roar of a hurried, harried day of trivial pursuits we have come to believe are important?

This year I have watched closely as Gander created thousands of those kinds of meditative minutes. He was a conduit to all that is good in the here and now and to everything in need of remembering. He has provided a spiritual firewire, for me and hundreds of others he has not even met, needed to access the divine. He has facilitated smiles and goodwill in people worldwide. He has started the healing of many a broken spirit. How he has nurtured health in me and others is important: Often it starts with a memory and a moment of shared grief or loss. He reminds us of the dog that made their lives whole and the times and people that surrounded that period; he joins people with memories of a better time by taking them back to that place before somehow guiding them into the present and a celebration of what once was, maybe with the wag of a tail or an understanding kiss on the hand or cheek. Saul Bellow said, “Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.” We remember a time when we felt wanted, needed and important.

Grief and the sadness that goes with it are part and parcel of appreciating all that is good. They are travel companions much more comfortable with each other than we know. I have long thought that monsters willing to strike an innocent animal or discharge a lethal bullet in the direction of a stranger must have a monstrous sorrow so tightly constrained that there is little room in their hearts for anything but anger or rage.

I may well be the King of Sadness with Gander as my advisor: Some Merlinesque wizard who can summon the past and cast a spell that empties us of sorrow so we might appreciate, if only for a minute, the joys around us that never really left. I just provide food and shelter for this magical character. He makes us wise by example and allows us to sleep better at night, to be better to all creatures we will meet in our short lives. He helps stretch those meditative minutes into hours, days, weeks…..

I’ll sleep better tonight…










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Hero Dogs: Part II

“There’s often a reason why people and dogs bite. It’s about self-protection. If we respect what we may not know about the suffering of others and look at them compassionately, we open the door that can lead to understanding.”
― Jennifer Skiff, The Divinity of Dogs

Hero DogsThis will be my last word on the awards. I am still flabbergasted that something as simple as a dog contest could turn into such a vicious, destructive force. You know I am not prone to criticism of others. But, the Hero Dogs are, for me, a sad metaphor for everything wrong with the internet, corporate America and the non-profits that lose their way, wrap themselves in good intentions, but end up fixated on monetary rewards so much that they lose sight of the compassions they purport to further. I’ll explain.

The American Humane Association (AHA) Hero Dog Awards are nearly over. Dozens of contestants devoted almost five months of their lives and enlisted the support of hundreds of their friends in support of the contest. I am glad it is coming to a close. It was akin to Vietnam for me: Never ending, the casualties mounting, the participants reviled and the administration in charge non-responsive to the people who fought on their behalf.

What finally angered me was not the collective questionable behavior of the “team” that won nor the deceptive marketing scheme devised by the AHA that is meant to convince potential advertisers of the benefits of supporting a weak social media campaign and their Hallmark Channel red carpet awards show . It was the complete lack of regard for the emotional welfare of the people who worked so hard to give them the numbers they needed to manipulate sponsors into continuing to finance the marathon contest that finally got to me.

The awards were effectively “fixed” from day one. Last year’s winner leveraged his celebrity and backed a team with his large following. The hundreds of contestants who participated as individuals were doomed to defeat from day one and the AHA knew it. Dozens of worthy dogs were excluded, not because of the strength of the competition, but questionable motives and morals of the juggernaut leader that had planned well in advance to dominate the awards. His following was not privy to his refusals to level the playing field even when sponsors were threatening to leave. Instead were falsely led them to believe he was being banned from the awards among other fabrications and exaggerations. Much of what he transmitted to his following was carefully spun to make him look like the victim of both the AHA and other trolls and “whiners,” as he called them, who wished him ill. He made mountains out of molehills to rally support, hurting all of us in the process. It worked. He obliterated the integrity of the contest and damaged the intended mission of the awards because he believed he was acting within the rules. And the AHA stood silent. Just two question: If the organization that, in part, built your celebrity would you threaten its viability? If you knew sponsors had threatened to pull out of the event because of your dominance would you still offer to support someone for the coming year’s contest even while you were in the midst of scrutiny and controversy for your behavior?

Most of the voters this year had cast ballots in last year’s event. The AHA, despite touting big numbers for participation, has a laughable presence on social media platforms. This award’s contest is poorly designed and does little to positive grow their membership or aid their branding. Their media package they pump to potential advertisers says they generate millions of visits to the Hero Dog website. In reality only a few thousand came and many were returnees who visited, again and again, to cast votes for the same slate of dogs. Some supporters openly admitted to using as many as seven email accounts to effect the outcome. Why did AHA allow this? Simple: Had they ended the awards within a sensible time frame and bern strict, they would have revealed their sadly low audience reach. If you do the math, it becomes apparent that the million plus votes allegedly cast, when divided by the 90 days of voting and allowing for the people who used several email accounts to cast multiple votes, made for very weak market saturation. And seven of the dogs received 1000+ votes a day that were all from the same boter base. Multiplied over 90 days that is 560,000+ votes that should not impact advertisers. If you follow the finalists on Facebook it is easy to see that the winners of each division, with a couple of exceptions, had no real influence on the internet beyond the support given them by last year’s winner. One such hero dog, today, had 6 likes and no reposts for a request for support if their dog in the final month long round of voting for overall winner. The numbers are a sham and the AHA should be ashamed of such a blatant manipulation of the numbers to con advertisers into paying higher than reasonable ad or sponsorship rates.

The list of transgressions by competitors and their supporters is long and in some cases frightening. A few of them:

Widespread machine voting and fraud…

Death Threats (yes, really) to some competitors…

Reporting of pictures, posts and comments as spam and abusive so they would be removed, robbing competitors of visibility…

Angry lambasting of competitors and the AHA on their Facebook walls and the walls of the AHA and other competitors.

Memes and captioned photos calling unspecified competitors “trolls” or “whiners” which colored all contestants negatively…I repeatedly asked for names of those claimed to be trolling, but was never answered.

The AHA knew by the end of the third week who would win and that none of the 150+ others had a reasonable shot of the ridiculously low prize money. Yet they remained silent and allowed hundreds/thousands of supporters to keep voting in order to boost their association’s dubious page view totals for advertisers. Most of us by this time were already apologizing to our friends for our impositions, unaware that we were actually calling on them to waste their time and enthusiasm on a lost cause. What I suggested was to add 3 Ambassador selections to the final winner’s circle. Those picked would be ones thought by the judges to be examples of what the contest was meant to exemplify. I was told it was $15,000 per tribute video if they did that so it was impractical. That’s awfully short sighted. A dog like Charlie Boy or Tennille could have garnered more positive attention than the other winners combined. Any acknowledgement of one or two others who had worked so hard to promote the AHA might well have dissipated some of the anger and resentment felt by dozens of contestants.

Open attacks on other competitors meant to completely discredit them: One veteran was told to crawl back into his hole with his booze and drugs after he called to question the eligibility of another dog. It was an allusion to his PTSD that did not set well with me. Another, who actually won their category, said that the stress was so bad that she was losing hair and having other somatic issues.

One dog, who won his division, clearly had a padded profile. I reviewed conversation transcripts from the dog’s previous owner, spoke to several professional handlers and am now 100% convinced his entire profile was fabricated. And the chief supporters of the dog and the AHA knew all along that the dog was not what he was presented to be….

That the AHA called this kind of behavior,”spirited competition” angered me, but not nearly as much as their actions after the last week of the competition. I awaited word about the voting outcome, as did the hundreds of people who supported other dogs, and never received an announcement of the category winners. All contestant profiles were simply deleted from the AHA website. I learned of the winners though their Facebook pages cheers of success. Winners had been notified while the losers were treated, not like supporters of the AHA, but just losers. We were not even given a “thank you” email for our three months of service to the AHA. We were left to explain to our friends that we were pretty sure we lost. The three months of service that helped them pre-sell ads to sponsors and to convince celebrity judges to participate were not recognized. The trials and tribulations we all endured they hoped would go unnoticed if they remained mute so they would not have image issues seem by their deep pocketed celebs… We were social and financial chimp change.

We were used. The AHA suffered from what pilots know as “target fixation”. It is when you are so focused on a the end result that you crash into the ground or get shot down because you were blind to everything else around you. They’ve lost considerable grass roots support. But I was told by one staffer they didn’t care. Hero Dogs only represents a small portion of their income.

I have taken a vow to never participate in another vanity contest or one that requires me to exploit my audience or my friends. The results of these kinds of contests, now that people know how to game the tallies, are questionable at best. And they bring out the worst in all of us. And with groups like the AHA caring only about numbers and willing to let competitors wreck havoc on reputations and serenity for the sake of a few dollars, it would make me an accomplice to such behavior.

The combined time and energy expended on the Hero Dog Awards could have generated much more tangible good for much more worthy organizations.

In the end I am grateful for the new connections I made and for being able to share Gander with a broader group of like minds. Gander’s Facebook page, which did not exist before the awards, is now a special sanctuary for dog lovers and a community of supportive friends. Now it is time for us to move forward toward common goals with positive, not destructive, consequences.





Dog Eat Dog: The AHA Hero Dog Awards Part I

Hero Dogs

“I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

At one point in the competition a representative of the American Humane Association answered a tsunami of criticism about its design and execution and the violent in-fighting that many competitors were experiencing by acknowledging the contest contestants to be “spirited.”To euphemistically call the madness of the social media contest “spirited” is skin to labeling the Nanjing Massacre a “skirmish.”

The American Humane Association Hero dog Awards just concluded the first round of voting (actually more like fifteen rounds without a bell) and they have now moved into the final selection phase where one of the dogs will be crowned AHA Hero Dog and will walk the red carpet in Hollywood with canine loving stars like Pauley Perrette, Betty White and Miranda Lambert. Gander and I staggered out of the last day with him in second place in the service dog category only to find that even the officials had already abandoned the finish line:  A powerful metaphor for the worst, yet most strangely rewarding three months in recent memory. I will explain….

I signed Gander on for the awards having no idea what to expect. The promise of the awards was that, at the worst, we could up the profile for the charity that provided me Gander and, at the best, snag a tiny cash prize, a dubiously important title and bragging rights that could mean positive exposure for my charity and the causes and agendas we promote: PTSD Awareness, Service Dog Access, Veterans Rights and Suicide Prevention. And we’d be supporting the Association by bringing in new donors to support the work they do.

I started or renamed accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for Gander. I began recruiting supporters and implored people to follow the everyday heroism of a dog I credit with saving my life and bringing joy and inspiration to thousands more. The cohorts in the quest to elect Gander to public accolades were and are my saving grace: The kindest, most generous and thoughtful people I could ever imagine. While the competition was an example of all that is wrong with social media, the people supporting Gander were all that is right with the Web. And I felt that way, not because they backed my battle buddy, but because they trusted the intention of our involvement and created a community of grace and goodwill. Within a month Gander had 10,000 followers on Facebook, 60,000 on Twitter and 5, o00 on Instagram. I was ready. OK, I thought I was ready.

I began to look at other dogs entered in the competition. There were some extraordinary stories of courage and accomplishment. Surely, any of these dogs were worthy of an award and many were already bona fide heroes: Military war dogs who sniffed out IEDs, a  guide dog who did triple duty as guide, service and therapy dog for a Sergeant Major who was blinded in Iraq, and stories you hoped would be collected into a book and shared with the world. To think only one dog would emerge on top already seemed unfair.

It was soon evident that, though a month early, I was late to the party. A team of candidates had already formed and mounting a charge. At the front of the formation was last year’s winner with nearly fifty-thousand likes using his celebrity to back five dogs running in different categories. My work was cut out for me. Work was cut out for all of us. Not to self:  “Healey’s First Law Of Holes: When in one, stop digging.” ― Denis Healey. But, I am stubborn and what is life without challenge?

“The difficulty in dealing with a maze or labyrinth lies not so much in navigating the convolutions to find the exit but in not entering the damn thing in the first place. I am a stubborn warrior. I grabbed my sword and headed out to fight a digital sea. Had I known then how vicious and vile the fight would be I would have quit on the spot. Had I known in advance that the AHA would turn a blind eye to competitor transgressions and put page view,  celebrity and sponsorship opportunities above integrity, I would have never started.

G.K Chesterton once said that a good novel tells the truth about the hero while a bad one tells us about the author. While the awards could have been a bestseller, the AHA penned a weak tome….

Part II Saturday
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
― Abraham Lincoln