Service Dogs Graduate from ‘Mutts with a Mission’ Program - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Service Dogs Graduate from ‘Mutts with a Mission’ Program

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Ailbe, a service dog Ailbe, a service dog

The first class of canines in Virginia will graduate Monday night from a program that's training service dogs for servicemen and women.

Mutts with a Mission works with dogs and veterans around the country from its home base in Madison County. It’s a veteran-run, nonprofit training service dogs for veterans. Army veteran Brooke Corson founded the program after noticing the puppy she had at the time helped relieve stress among her fellow soldiers.

The nonprofit started out training psychiatric and mobility service dogs to deliver to veterans, but since the training process alone takes up to two years, Corson says that created a long waitlist for veterans in need of a canine helper.

So now, Mutts with a Mission is allowing veterans to train their own pets to become service dogs.

“Instead of sitting on a waiting list for several years, hoping that your dog comes, these guys are out in public doing the work and bonding with the dog. When the dog is in training and actually able to go out and start the public access work, the dog is already helping them,” Corson said.

Ailbe, a 3-year-old poodle, is one of two service dogs graduating from the Mutts with a Mission program Monday night at the American Legion in Madison. His handler, disabled Air Force veteran Ellen McCarthy, says her legs sometimes give out. But she calls Ailbe her four-legged cane.

“At least you can sleep with him and cuddle with him. You can't do it with metal,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy has been training Ailbe to become her certified mobility service dog. Not only does he help her walk, but he also helps by picking up items for her, such as keys, water bottles, and her cellphone.

McCarthy credits Ailbe and her retiring service dog, Shadow, with restoring her freedom.

“This gave my independence back,” she said. “I can go to places and not have a fear of falling, because I know my service dog is there to help.”

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