The SAVE Program stands for Shepherd And Veteran Enablement. Our mission is to match military Veterans with rescued Companion dogs and make it easy for them to adopt. We are enhancing the lives of military veterans and their families while saving more shelter dogs in search of homes.
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Many people hear this mission and think only of certified Service dogs, which are trained to perform specific behaviors to assist with various disabilities and challenges. We are focusing on the level before Service Dog, called Companion Dog, that brings many benefits. Think of it as a great family pet.
A well-matched Companion dog helps veterans who are coping with post-traumatic stress or anxieties that arise with a return to civilian life. Having a companion dog brings affection, fun and a sense of purpose into their lives. When the dog licks your face, you’ve got to get off the couch and go play. That’s a good thing when you are feeling depressed.
We are a Central Valley-based organization and according to our shelter partners, San Joaquin County has an unusually high number of German Shepherds looking for homes. One reason is that they are popular guard dogs and often left outside the house, even at night. When these dogs are not trained well or exercised, they can get bored and escape. We have even heard from San Joaquin law enforcement officers that Shepherds are popular with illegal marijuana growers. And if the owners go to jail, the dogs go to the shelter.
We work hard to make the adoption process easy for the Veteran adopter. First we speak to the veteran and caregiver to assess their specific needs. It may be as simple as the dog joining the veteran on walks to get them out of the house, or introducing purpose into their lives when they have to train, feed and care for another.
Then we suggest a match with one of the many easy-tempered fostered dogs currently in our rescue. Our rescue dog evaluators and fosters really know the German Shepherd breed and how to expertly assess their temperament to match them with new owners. We take a lot of care with this step, which has resulted in a very low return rate. This is better for all the dogs AND humans involved.
Our fosters usually do basic “Canine Good Citizen” training with the dogs in their care, but we also recommend trusted expert trainers the veteran can hire afterwards if they choose. Our organization focuses on the fundamental training that makes the dog a good companion dog. Some veterans may later elect to do higher level service dog training for specific needs, and the Level 1 and Level 2 dogs we select are likely to be good candidates for this training.
The adoption process is simple for veterans. We do fundraising and accept individual and corporate donations to cover the adoption fee costs for qualified veterans. We feel that veterans are dealing with enough adversity and we want to help make the road easier for them.