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  • Helena Kyle

Volunteering Series: Shelter-to-Service

Volunteering Series: Shelter-to-Service

Previously Published in the Pineapple Post

By Helena Kyle

This article is dedicated to all the men and women who serve, or have served, in our armed forces and to all involved with the Furry Friends Shelter-to-Service Dog Program.

My fondest childhood memory of the holidays, is the season following my dad’s return from deployment in Vietnam, back in 1969, however, my family, and our culture-at-large, at that time in history, was completely unprepared to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anyone living with PTSD, or living with someone suffering from it, understands the need to offer veterans support. Furry Friends Adoption Clinic and Ranch/the Humane Society of Greater Jupiter/Tequesta offers help and hope to veterans through their Shelter-to-Service Program.

I recently had the opportunity to meet recipients of a Furry Friends shelter-to-service dog, Corporal Derek Butler and his wife, Kristina, and, their beloved service dog, Phoenix. Derek learned of the Shelter-to-Service Program while attending a retreat hosted by the Renewal Coalition of Jupiter, Florida; an organization that helps wounded veterans and their family transition from military life to civilian life.

Corporal Butler met his special canine buddy, Phoenix, at the service dog training site in Jupiter; they formed an immediate friendship-bond. Derek has PTSD; one day, at an exceptionally low point, he struggled with going any further in life, but the presence of loyal, loving Phoenix, motivated him to press on. Phoenix, a survivor of horrendous abuse, was a puppy when rescued and taken to the Furry Friends Shelter. After extensive medical treatment and full recovery, he was entered into the service dog training program of Canines Aiding Military Veterans Organization, (C.A.M.O.). Phoenix’s life was saved by the veterinarians at the Furry Friends clinic, and Corporal Butler says that his life was saved by Phoenix. The Furry Friends Shelter-to-Service Dog program is a win-win for both, canines, and veterans. Phoenix is clearly happy to live with Derek, Kristina, and their two young children.

Patricia Deshong, President of the Furry Friends Adoption Clinic and Ranch, brings in the ranch manager, retired canine unit police officer, Ace, to help determine the shelter dogs best suited for the program. C.A.M.O. trainer, Mike Lorraine, makes the final decision. The dogs chosen for the program live on site with Mike the duration of their training, which takes upwards of one year, depending on the specific needs of the veterans. Dogs training to assist veterans with PTSD need up to one year of training, and dogs trained to assist veterans with physical limitations/wheelchair use, require longer training.

The cost of training the dogs for service varies according to specific needs, ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. Due to the cost of raising and training the service dogs, the most beneficial way of aiding our wounded military veterans through the Furry Friends Shelter-to-Service Program is by volunteering to give financial gifts; donations are tax deductible. Also, volunteering to help out at the shelter or the ranch, would be tremendously appreciated. Looking for a loyal canine or feline companion? Consider adopting a pet, or two. Furry Friend’s is offering half-price adoption fees for the abundance of beautiful, black cats at the ranch in Palm City, in need of a good home.

For more information on the Furry Friend’s Shelter-to-Service Dog Program:

Patricia Deshong


561 747.5311 ext. 1 Main

Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch

401 Maplewood Dr.

Jupiter, FL 33458


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