Broadview Heights, OH — At Wags 4 Warriors, kisses are a mandatory, a sloppy invite by the service animals being trained. The name of the organization explains the mission behind it – Wags 4 Warriors, centered around veterans and their dogs.
The Delorenzo’s co-founded the non-profit in 2011 and their daughter Kayla has seen some very special relationships develop ever since.
"It makes me so proud that we've started this and I just love being a part of it,” Kayla said. “I love seeing the transition in people.”
She’s been a spectator for a while, watching her parents foster dogs, helping to train them and then handing them over to a veteran.Things are changing now and she’s taking on a bit of a different role.
"This will be my first time being a sole handler,” Kayla said. “I'll bring him into training, I'll wake up with him at night."
She and her family already have a full house, too!
"We've got a cat, we've got three dogs and two birds, so it's like a zoo...so add on a puppy, why not?"
It’ll take 120 hours of training and a lot of socialization, starting the first week of January. They call it “puppy raising,” a process that takes six to nine months and Kayla will be there every step of the way.
"We'll take him everywhere, get him socialized so they're comfortable in kinds of different situations, so they're comfortable with different animals, different people, different areas,” Kayla said.
The veteran will take over after that, completing 60 hours of public access training.It’s actually not common to have a puppy donated to the program, most times the dogs are rescued and sent in for training after passing a few tests.
“We take them up to about a year old, we have to temperament test them and make sure they're going to be a good fit to be a service dog,” Kayla said.
It happens to be a long process, but it’s all for a big, sloppy reward.
"We like to say that we rescue one to rescue another, so we rescue the dog to rescue the veteran."