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Puppies with a Purpose

Recently I visited America’s VetDogs of Smithtown where I had a chance to meet Charlie and Olivia Poff. Charlie is a black Labrador Retriever who is best known as the ‘Puppy with a Purpose’ from NBC’s TODAY show. And Olivia is an official guide dog mobility instructor for America’s VetDogs, and their sister organization, the Guide Dog Foundation.

Olivia, who is currently acting as Charlie’s raiser because of her role on TODAY told me, “America’s VetDogs and the TODAY show have teamed up and are working towards Charlie’s bright future to help somebody who has helped us by serving our country”. She added, “our mission is to give people their independence back”.

For the next 16 months Charlie will be raised by Olivia to become a service dog for a veteran in need. Throughout his training, Olivia is going to look at Charlie’s strengths and weaknesses to decide who to match Charlie up with. For example, if Charlie is comfortable around wheelchairs, then they will look for someone who uses a wheelchair. So far, Charlie has been taught to touch a target, turn on and off lights, and push doors and cabinets closed. All these skills will be used to help a veteran with physical and emotional disabilities. Olivia has been working with America’s VetDogs for about eights years and is very passionate about her work. As a young girl she wanted to become a veterinarian, but her interests shifted toward a career in the dog training industry. Olivia states that she has always had a love for animals but it wasn’t until her sophomore year in college that she discovered her love of service dogs.

America’s VetDogs is an incredible organization that was created to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veteran’s, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities allowing them to once again live with pride and self reliance. I was fortunate to be introduced to them by my cousin Angela Tornello who volunteers there twice a week.

Angela said she loves working at America’s VetDogs where she sees firsthand all the lovable puppies that will grow to help America’s veterans. She also gets the opportunity to see the many people the organization has helped and stressed that more volunteers are needed.

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left to right: Charlie, Olivia Poff and Victoria

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left to right: Victoria with her cousin Angela Tornello

TODAY Show: TODAY's puppy with a purpose, Charlie, is training to be a guide dog with America's VetDogs. -- September 7, 2016

Matt Lauer and Charlie TODAY Show: TODAY’s puppy with a purpose, Charlie, is training to be a guide dog with America’s VetDogs. — September 7, 2016

A great way to help America’s VetDogs is to donate. It cost over $50,000 to breed,
raise, train, and place one service dog with a family. All the services are provided without charge to the individual. Funding comes from the generosity of people like you, which is why it’s so important to donate. Another way to help is to become a puppy raiser or to volunteer for the many other jobs they need assistance with.

Victoria’s Fun Facts and Tips:
~ Matt Lauer is the one that’s always most excited to see Charlie when he arrives at the TODAY show.
~ Charlie is named after the army’s phonetic alphabet. (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie)
~ Olivia and Charlie begin their day at 3AM to be able to get to NYC for the show.

You can volunteer to be a foster parent and raise a magnificent, loving puppy for a veteran.
Please visit www.VetDogs.org for more info.

Be sure to watch Olivia and Charlie on the TODAY show and check out my full interview with them on my YouTube Channel “Victoria’s Amazing World”.

For more information on me, please visit www.VictoriasAmazingWorld.com.
And if you’d like me to visit your school or library for one of my animal
education programs, please contact me at victoriasamazingworld@yahoo.com
Written by Victoria Bonavita

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