Paws for Heroes' Teams
DJ & Axel - Lake Jackson, Texas
Donald, also known as DJ, is from Michigan. DJ entered the Army in 2003 and left in 2011. He was an MP and for five years worked in the K-9 unit. DJ was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and later Afghanistan and earned multiple medals for his service.
DJ absolutely loves dogs, but especially big dogs. He missed the companionship of his K-9 partner, Dino, and needed another partner after returning to civilian life, trying to navigate in a new world, while dealing with the invisible battle scars that remained with him.
DJ never felt safer than when he was with his K-9 partner and found that the poem “Guardians of the Night” described his relationship with Dino… “Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath when all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side.”
DJ contacted Paws for Heroes and asked for a dog just like his former dog, Dino. Paws for Heroes was able to find a dog that measured up to DJ’s standards. At 88 pounds, Axel was a huge dog, but he was also very gentle and very loving. And smart! When Axel was presented to DJ, his wife, Cathi, was so happy to see the joy on her husband’s face, saying, “I haven’t seen him beam like that since the birth of our children. Since Axel has arrived, he hasn’t stopped smiling.” DJ's wife Cathi said Axel has been a Godsend in helping DJ with his PTSD. Cathi said Axel has given her family back the husband and father they thought they lost.
Watch DJ and Cathi's interview about how Axel has helped heal DJ here.
Watch DJ and Axel's story below!
Watch Gage and Poseidon's story below!
Gage is from Oakhurst, Texas. While Gage may look young, after you meet him, it is easy to tell that he is wise beyond his years. He is soft spoken but speaks his mind. He is funny and sincere. Gage enlisted in the military in 2009 and served in the Air Force and Army. In 2012, Gage was deployed to Afghanistan. He served with the 818th Engineer Company. Gage was a sapper, also known as a combat engineer.
Gage is humble and earnest. He won’t tell you about all of the medals and awards he received while serving in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense calls it “SERVING IN AN AREA OF IMMINENT DANGER.” Gage says he was just “doing his job over there.” Gage’s job? Clearing IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) from the roadways each day so that soldiers could travel safely across them. Gage went on hundreds of missions clearing the roads from bombs that if detonated would blow up his unit’s truck into hundreds of pieces. Which happened more than once. Luckily, Gage’s unit miraculously managed to stay safe from harm.
Other members of his company would not have the same fate. On December 3th, 2012, two soldiers assigned to the 818th Engineer Company (Sapper) were killed in action while on duty in Afghanistan. They were conducting route clearance operations when an IED struck their vehicle in southern Afghanistan. Gage is grateful to be alive—but there are days where he experiences survivor’s guilt making his mind wander back to that day. When Gage completed his military service, he enrolled in college. Gage is currently a college student at Texas A&M in College Station. As you might imagine, Gage’s life experiences distinguish him from many of his fellow students. Gage noticed he looked at things differently than many of his friends. He started isolating and becoming withdrawn. In 2016, Gage went down to the shelter in Montgomery County in Conroe, Texas to adopt a dog. He said he was looking for a loyal 4 legged friend who maybe had a rough start at life and needed a second chance. The shelter staff saw that he was a veteran and told him instead of adopting a dog himself, he should contact Paws for Heroes.
This greyhound mix was probably not going to live the veterinarian told Ricqi, Poseidon’s foster. Poseidon had distemper. He had mange. He was barely alive. But Ricqi wasn’t giving up on him. She could tell Poseidon was a fighter. And thank goodness she didn’t give up. Poseidon lived. He blossomed into a smart, funny, beautiful and graceful greyhound. Later, he was accepted into the Paws for Heroes' program. When Paws for Heroes matched Gage and Poseidon, it was like reuniting 2 old mates that had not seen each other for a long time. These days you can find Gage working in his wood shop. He makes beautiful furniture and home décor by hand to help pay for school and Poseidon is always by his side watching close by. Gage engraves the name of a fallen soldier in every piece of furniture he makes to honor and remember the ultimate sacrifice each soldier has made for us.
Pops and Eddie - Houston, Texas
Meet "Eddie" and Pops, our latest Paws for Heroes team! Eddie is a pug/beagle stray mix who was rescued by Red Collar as he was about to be euthanized at BARC. Pops is a Korean war veteran. Pops served as a Navy medic along with the US Marines, 1st Division, 5th Regiment. Pops was recently widowed and had to move to Houston to live with his son for health reasons. Pops was lonely during the day while his son and his son's girlfriend were working. Enter Eddie! Eddie is a happy go lucky, funny and curious little dog who loves to play almost as much as he loves to snuggle with Pops. Pops says Eddie brightens his mornings and makes him laugh all day. Good job Eddie and welcome to the Paws for Heroes' family boys!
Watch Pop' and Eddie's story below!
Sean and Brooklyn - Conroe, Texas
Sean grew up in Brooklyn, New York. When Sean was 15, the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked on 9/11. Sean was so adamant about joining the military he begged his mother to allow him to join age 17. Sean spent his 18th birthday in Boot Camp.
For the next eight years, Sean proudly served his country as a United States Marine. Over the course of his service, Sean was awarded multiple commendations, medals and awards. When it was time for Sean to retire, like so many of his other brothers and sisters, he experienced difficulty transitioning to civilian life. Sean suffered from PTSD and depression. Sean's fiance Jennifer encouraged Sean to look into alternative therapies to help with his PTSD. They both went online together and found Paws For Heroes on Facebook and applied.
When Paws For Heroes met Sean, he admitted he was nervous about being placed with a dog. “I’ve never owned a dog before and I’m a little hesitant about getting one.” Paws For Heroes assured Sean that he would not regret getting a dog. Paws For Heroes also assured Sean that after placing any dog with a veteran, Paws for Heroes is there 24/7 to help with any questions or problems. Sean smiled and said “Alright, let’s do this.“
Paws For Heroes contacted it’s partner, Adore Houston, a local rescue group. Since 2011, Adore Houston has rescued over 4,100 dogs. Paws For Heroes told Adore that they were looking for a laid-back, calm and sweet dog that would be a good dog for someone who had not previously owned one before. Adore Houston said “Look no further, we have your dog. Come out and look at Brooklyn.”
Adore Houston was right. Brooklyn was perfect for Sean. Kelly Green with Green Dog Training in Conroe trained Brooklyn. When Sean was ready to meet Brooklyn, he was still nervous. But that nervousness disappeared when Brooklyn walked through the door. Brooklyn walked up to Sean and wagged her tail. Brooklyn looked up at him with her soft eyes that seemed to say “Where have you been all of my life?”
We went back to visit Sean a year later. Nothing but smiles were to be found in Sean’s house (and of course a wagging tail). Sean said Brooklyn is the “best dog” and that she is a wonderful companion—not only for him, but for the whole family. 😊🐾😍
Watch Sean and Brooklyn's story below!
Daniel & Bear - Tomball, Texas
Daniel is an Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2008. He and his wife, Jennifer, along with their two boys, live in Willis, Texas.
Daniel considers himself blessed, but is still dealing with emotional and physical conditions related to his service. He wanted the companionship of a loyal four-legged friend.
A caring woman named Keri Cooper discovered Bear at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, and after foster-homing him for several months, contacted Paws for Heroes to see if Bear was the right kind of dog for placement with a veteran. Paws for Heroes’ evaluation showed Bear to be smart, sweet and loyal to a fault.
He and Daniel were matched in right before Super Bowl Sunday. Dogs sometimes need some time to adjust to a new owner, but Bear “adopted” Daniel as his battle buddy within the first few hours after they met. Ever since then, they have been inseparable. Daniel and Bear now come out regularly to speak on behalf of Paws for Heroes and help educate the community about PTSD and how Paws for Heroes helps heal veterans.
Watch Daniel and Bear's story below!
Daniel and Bear honored at the
Houston Rockets game
Octavius has served his country in the Army for over twenty years. On a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, while working as a helicopter crew chief, Octavius suffered traumatic brain injury and an injury to his left arm that has made his left hand nearly useless.
In addition to his physical injuries, Octavius suffers from the “invisible wound” of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Octavius, who ran track at LSU before joining the Army, has been working to put his life back together. He has developed a passion for recumbent cycling, and has participated in many races over the past three years, nabbing first place in all but one of them. Still, there was something missing.
That something was Petey, the Paws for Heroes dog presented to Octavius. Petey was rescued from Montgomery County Animal Shelter and is a gentle, happy, enthusiastic companion. Petey and Octavius walk or run for at least thirty minutes every day.
Petey has already learned how to awaken Octavius when he is having nightmares, and is being further trained to help Octavius carry small items that are difficult for Octavius with his arm injury.
Octavius has big plans for Petey: He plans to photograph Petey in front of the state-line signs of all 50 states! Petey will be a very well-traveled dog. More importantly, he’s one of the best-loved. Since 2016 when Octavius and Petey were matched, look at all the places they've been together! Click here to see Petey's trips
Watch Octavius and Petey's story below!
Check out Octavius & Petey's trip to the Grand Canyon!
John and Vinny - Humble, Texas
John is a sweet quiet man who lives in Humble, Texas. In fact, he lives in the same house that he grew up in as a boy. When John was 18, he enlisted in the Navy. Soon, he was deployed to Vietnam in 1967 when he was just 19. John served his country proudly. But when John returned home, tragedy struck when an accident left John paralyzed in a wheelchair and with severe memory problems.
John became isolated and depressed. Fortunately, John's sister Catherine, who lives with John and takes care of him, knew just what to do to help John with his loneliness and depression: A Paws for Heroes dog! Vinny was rescued off of the streets in Rosenberg and saved by Fort Bend County Animal Control.
Vinny was the perfect companion for John. A short sidekick with a huge personality and Southern charm just like his Dad John. Soon Vinny had John laughing and smiling and bringing a new perspective on life and healing.
Sadly, John passed away on May 11th, 2018 from a heart attack. John's sweet sister Catherine now cares for Vinny.
Watch John and Vinny's story below!
Oscar & Batman - Katy, Texas
Oscar spent several years in the Navy, including serving our country in Afghanistan in 2011. With his wife Rebecca, son Jayden, baby Noah and his mom, he lives in a lovely home. A quiet, soft-spoken man, Oscar wanted a dog to complete his family, allay anxiety and increase his sense of well-being. Batman was the perfect choice for Oscar.
Batman had come to Adore Rescue after having been found literally wandering the streets. Batman has the same quiet, calm temperament as Oscar—a wonderful trait for living in a busy household. He is the most laid-back of dogs, wanting nothing more than to stay close to his owner and hope for a belly-rub.
Watch Oscar & Batman's story below!
Richard & Duke - Spring, Texas
Richard is a true hero. After serving in the Cold War and returning home, Richard was an EMT for many years. In 1995, the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred. Richard was asked to assist performing search and rescue and then later the emotional task of recovering the remains of the children in the daycare center.
Richard lives alone and was in need of a loyal friend to keep him company and help keep Richard grounded. After Richard applied for a companion with Paws for Heroes, a perfect companion came along. It was in the form of a black Lab named Duke.
Sitting in a kennel at a kill shelter outside of Houston, Duke was on the list to be put to be euthanized. Humans had failed Duke and he was alone. Luckily, Duke was rescued by a local Texas animal rescue group named Adore Houston. As Duke waited to be adopted, little did anyone know the life that Duke would have in store for him.
Paws for Heroes evaluated Duke and accepted him into their program. Duke was fostered by a wonderful family in Pearland and then completed the Paws for Heroes Boot Camp training program. At last: Duke was on his way to go to his forever home and Richard received the well trained and emotional support animal that he truly deserved.
It is incredible to see the joy that this death row dog turned Battle Buddy has brought to Richard’s life. After we placed Duke with Richard, Richard told us that sleeping through the night was something that he wasn’t able to do for years. Now that he has Duke, Richard says he now sleeps 8 hours a night because Duke is there with him.
Watch Richard and Duke's story below!
Lyle & Marley - Richmond, Texas
Meet Lyle and Miss Marley. Lyle is a veteran of Vietnam. For his brave service to our country, he was awarded a Silver Star and is the recipient of a Purple Heart. Lyle would be the first to tell you that he has many blessings in his life: a lovely home in Texas and a wonderful wife. However, even after all these years, Lyle remains plagued by nightmares and terrible memories of the war in Vietnam.
Lyle went over to Vietnam in 1968 when he was only 19 years old. Lyle was forever changed by some of the things he saw and experienced during the war. When Lyle finally returned, he was not welcomed home by his fellow citizens. Lyle suffered from depression and PTSD.
Some Vietnam vets, like Lyle, have the feeling that the world has moved on and forgotten their sacrifices. However, Lyle’s life changed when Marley, a beautiful female chocolate lab, was presented to him by Paws for Heroes. As you can see by the smiles on their faces, both Lyle and Marley are now best friends.
Watch Lyle and Marley's story below!
LaShonda & Noelle - Spring, Texas
LaShonda Johnson served in the Marine Corps for over eight years. During that time, she was twice deployed to Iraq: once in 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedom and again in 2012 during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Today she has a very busy life with her three children but she needed a companion dog. She particularly wanted a dog who would take her on long walks and runs.
LaShonda and her children moved into a new house, with a big back yard, just before Paws for Heroes presented her with Noelle, a beautiful white lab shepherd mix. Noelle has the disposition of an angel, and with her snow white coat, looks like one too.
On the day of the match, it was hard to tell who was smiling more—LaShonda or Noelle!
Update: Sadly, Noelle passed away after Hurricane Harvey from medical complications after LaShonda and her family were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Watch LaShonda and Noelle's story below!
Keli & Maggie - Pearland, Texas
Keli started her military career by joining ROTC while in college. She rose to the rank of Army Major and served in Iraq in 2009. Everything pointed to a long and brilliant military career, until events plunged her into PTSD. Keli has given her post-military time to raising her sons and trying to help other women suffering from PTSD and MST. Although helping others has helped Keli address her own trauma, she found that she was very uncomfortable, even fearful, at home, because her husband’s work takes him out of town frequently, leaving her the only adult in the house.
Paws for Heroes presented her with Maggie, a beautiful Lab, whose uncaring owners moved away and abandoned her in a backyard. Love at first sight is the only way to describe both Keli’s and Maggie’s reaction to each other. They are now constant companions and each other’s rock.
Watch Keli and Maggie's story below!
Dusty & Bailey - Dallas, Texas
Dusty was born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas and resides in Dallas, Texas. Dusty served 6 years in the Air Force and spent a few years in Baghdad working as a contractor. Dusty is not only a veteran who served his country but he continues to serve his fellow veterans by working with an awesome organization called “Twenty Two Until None.” This organization is dedicated to eradicate veteran suicide until the statistics are zero veteran suicides.
Bailey was rescued as a stray dog that had not had a decent meal in months. What she lacked in weight, she made up for in love and loyalty. Bailey is now a treasured member of Dusty’s family and she will now be loved and doted on forever.
David & Gracie - Houston, Texas
David Mock is a sweet and gracious man from Kentucky who enlisted in the Navy and served in the Lebanon conflict in 1979. When David returned home, he suffered a terrible tragedy. His home with his wife and dogs burned to the ground. David was devastated. He had lost everything—his home, his whole family—his world. David moved to Texas and has been struggling with loneliness and depression. That’s when David reached out to Paws for Heroes for a dog.
Gracie has had an equally rough time. She came from the streets and suffered from mange. One shelter saved Gracie’s life but then ran out of money and closed its doors. Another chance was given to her when Friends for Life adopted her and saved her from an uncertain future. Paws for Heroes met her soon after and knew she would be perfect for David.
When David and Gracie met, David couldn’t keep his emotions in. He cried from happiness and couldn’t stop thanking Cherry, Gracie’s trainer; the Stewarts, Gracie’s foster family; and Paws for Heroes. Now David is an official member of Paws for Heroes family and Gracie finally has a home to call her own.
Watch David and Gracie's story below!
Nick & Stryker - Katy, Texas
Staff Sergeant Nicholas Morgan served in the United States Army for six years as a military Intelligence Analyst and paratrooper. After completing his first four years of service, Nick left the Army to start a career in commercial insurance.
In April 2005, Nicholas was notified by the US Army that he was to mobilize from civilian status to be deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. As the convoy commander for his unit, Nick led more than 60% of his unit’s convoys.
On April 18th, 2006 while leading a convoy in southern Baghdad, Nick’s vehicle was hit by an advanced improvised explosive device.
Nick and two of his soldiers suffered wounds from the blast. Immediately after the explosion his unit began receiving machine gun fire from nearby rooftops. Despite being injured and receiving incoming machine gun fire, Nick was able to lead his unit and wounded soldiers out of harm’s way. After the attack he was medically evacuated to Kuwait for two months of medical treatment.
For his actions in Iraq, and his exceptionally meritorious service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Nick was awarded the Bronze Star. For his wounds inflicted by the enemy he received the Purple Heart. Following his return home to the US, Nick suffered from PTSD and TBI and found it difficult to transition into civilian life.
Despite having survived some of the worst combat zones in Iraq and being able to physically return home to the US, Nick noticed that his fellow soldiers were also suffering. One of the soldier’s in Nick’s unit that was ambushed lost their battle to PTSD by suicide. Nick decided to contact Paws for Heroes and asked for a dog.
Stryker was rescued from League City animal shelter. Stryker was the perfect match for Nick. Stryker loves kids (and Nick has 6, ranging from 1 to 15 years old) and is a very loyal and sweet dog.
Watch Nick & Stryker's story below!
Neil & Tarzan - The Woodlands, Texas
Neil Cunningham has always been a scrappy guy. Born in Queens, New York in 1944, he has never taken lip from anyone. But when Neil got out of the Coast Guard after serving in Vietnam in 1968, he needed help. Neil had a medical condition that causes him to lose blood pressure and faint frequently. This condition can be dangerous since Neil can suffer injuries if he falls when he is in a location that is unsafe.
That’s where Tarzan comes in! Tarzan is a Doberman and was found running the streets in Houston, Texas. Tarzan was brought to Harris County Shelter and was put on the schedule for euthanasia. Thankfully Tarzan was rescued by S.A.F.E. House, transported by Debbie Oliver and entered the Paws for Heroes program.
Tarzan received companion animal training and Tarzan also helps stabilize Neil who has balance issues from a knee injury.
Tarzan and Neil are an impressive duo. Neil is 6’2” and Tarzan weighs in at almost 80 pounds. But they are both gentle giants. Now Neil feels safe and secure with his new dog Tarzan and Tarzan has a chance at a new beginning with a great and really cool Dad!
Watch Neil & Tarzan's story below!
Ernie & Valor - Tomball, Texas
Ernie Baker joined the Marines eight days before 9/11. He completed two tours in Iraq as an infantryman, one tour during the initial invasion in 2003 and then another tour in 2004. Like many of our returning veterans, he suffers from PTSD. Ernie is a contractor in the oilfield and is strong as they come. Ernie has a sensitive side too. Ernie missed the companionship of a dog that was as loyal as he was and never left his side. Ernie had difficulty sleeping and his wife Ashley worried about him constantly. Paws for Heroes found a great dog at a kill shelter in Dallas who needed to be nursed back to health. Paws for Heroes knew Valor, a two-year old Belgian Malinois, had just the right personality for Ernie. Ernie says Valor is one of the best dogs he has ever had. What's even better: Ashley says Ernie started sleeping better the day Valor arrived.
While Malinois can have somewhat intimidating appearances, Ernie says "If only people knew that Valor was just a big old sweet goofball!"
Ernie and Valor at
the Rocket's Game
Watch Ernie and Valor's story below!
Mac & Sandy - Spring, Texas
MacArthur (“Mac”) Reed is a proud veteran of the war in Vietnam and was deployed in 1968. Mac’s living room has a bookcase lined with the mementos that mean the most to him. Among those are pictures of his family and the many medals he was awarded for his exemplary service in Vietnam. Mac is the recipient of a Purple Heart.
Although Mac is confined to a wheelchair, he lives on his own in Spring, Texas. Mac is the kind of self-sufficient man that made him a good soldier. But Mac knew something that was missing from his life: a companion to share his home and make him laugh. Paws for Heroes found Sandy. She was the perfect dog for Mac.
Sandy was found in a dumpster by a homeless man, who wanted to keep her, but soon realized his circumstances were not good for her. Sandy eventually made it to DogTown Texas, where she was recognized as a happy, calm dog that would make an excellent companion for a Paws for Heroes veteran.
After being trained at DogTown, Sandy was presented to Mac. Sandy took to Mac immediately, and brought each of her toys over to him to let him look at them. For his part, Mac considers Sandy the best companion he could have wished for. She loves to cuddle up with him to watch TV and proudly rides alongside Mac in his truck when he’s running errands. She loves Mac unconditionally. And it sure looks like the feeling is mutual!
Watch Mac and Sandy's story below!
Michael and Sienna - Houston, Texas
Michael is originally from Brownsville, Texas. He joined the Army in 2000 and served in the infantry for almost 4 years. Michael served in Iraq in 2003 for over one year and was awarded several medals and ribbons for his service. While Michael served in Iraq, he watched many of his brothers go into battle and not return. After he completed his service, he re-enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. Michael retired from the military in 2008.
Michael has a beautiful family with 3 active boys. Even though Michael was physically back in Houston, he suffered from depression, anxiety and other PTSD symptoms. Michael’s family reached out to Paws for Heroes. After Paws for Heroes met with Michael, they started the search for a dog who was very loyal, loving, sweet but also loved to play. Thanks to Dogtown Texas Daycare and Training staff, Sienna was spotted. Sienna was a beautiful Border Collie/Australian shepherd mix. Sienna was a love bug, playful and very attentive. She was the perfect fit for Michael and his family. Sienna is completely in love with Michael and follows him around everywhere (“Sienna would jump in the shower with me if she could” Michael says…LOL).
Watch Michael and Sienna's story below!
Sonja and Stormin' Norman - Katy, Texas
Nurses who served in Vietnam during the war were very special and extraordinary people. Nurses were all volunteers—they were not drafted and instead they joined the military when duty called and they served their country admirably. Sonja was one of those nurses. Sonja grew up in Lawrenceville, Illinois. Sonja attended nursing school at the Julia F. Burnham School of Nursing. She graduated in 1965. After she graduated, Sonja joined the Army. In March of 1968, at age 24, Sonja was sent to Vietnam. Sonja supported the 12th Evacuation Hospital in the city of Cu Chi, on the Ho Chi Mingh Trail and the 6th Convalescent Center in Cam Ranh Bay. The 12th Evac unit was one of the hospitals with the heaviest casualty rates in Vietnam. Its specialty was for burns. The hospital, which could accommodate up to 300 casualties, was situated in a violent corner of Vietnam between Saigon and the Cambodian border. Her nursing unit took in-coming rounds, mortars, within the nursing compound and the hospital units, on a regular basis. During Sonja’s year-long tour, sometimes the nurses had to live, work and sleep in flak vests and helmets. Sonja worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, treating wounded soldiers for severe phosphorous burns and amputations. Sometimes however, 12 hour shifts turned into 36+ hour shifts. When Sonja was finally able to lay down to close her eyes, she would be jolted awake from nightmares of more soldiers being brought into the hospital.
During her tour, Sonja and so many of the other nurses were plagued by the terrible helplessness that nurses felt. The military perfected its medevac operations such that the bloodiest no longer died on the field of battle. They were brought by helicopter to the various medical stations across Vietnam. The sound of helicopter’s blades whirring put a lump in Sonja’s throat every time she heard them because it almost always meant more soldiers than their small medical unit staff would be equipped to help. A UH 34 could unload up to 7 casualties, a CH 46: 14 to 16 wounded and the CH-53s could bring as many as 60 severely wounded men. Triage meant something different in Vietnam than it did in a normal hospital back in the U.S. In the military, the purpose for triage is “to preserve the fighting strength.” The goal is to save the people that have the strongest chance to return to duty. Grim decisions had to be made instantly on which patients were tended to first. There was never enough time to work on everyone. Soldiers with massive traumas were immediately brought to the operating table. While they would survive surgery, some would soon die from infections or septic shock. Some died crying for the assurance that they would live. The nurses would always be there with their patients, holding their hand and telling the soldiers that they would be sure to tell their families back home that they were good soldiers. Other times, the nurses were caught in what seemed like an endless stream of mangled and severed bodies in the evacuation hospital, performing lifesaving procedures but the nurses would never know their patients ultimate fate because the soldiers were moved out to make room for the next helicopter that just landed with more causalities. Despite the overwhelmingly number of casualties, thanks to the nurses and physicians incredible dedication to our soldiers, 98% of the men who were wounded and made it to the hospital survived. Sonja also worked at the 6th Convalescent Center. Sonia is still plagued with thoughts of what happened to so many 18 and 19 year-old boys she cared for in her unit. When they returned home, she wondered would their fiancé still marry them now that they had no legs?
For her meritorious service, Sonja was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal as well as the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, among many others awards. After returning from Vietnam, Sonja continued to proudly serve her country for more than 13 years. When Sonja left the military, she returned to the nursing profession to work as a neonatal nurse. Upon her retirement from nursing, Sonja decided she needed the companionship of a good dog. Bailey was her sweet and faithful companion for 14 years. After Bailey passed away, Sonja was heartbroken and devastated. When Sonja was ready to think about getting another dog she began to panic—with her mobility issues, there was no way Sonja would be able to deal with the physical demands of training a dog. That’s when a caring Marine veteran named David Cantu with the Harris County Veterans Services who was assisting Sonja with her VA claim mentioned Paws for Heroes. He told Sonja “Paws for Heroes will find a dog that is compatible with you and they will train it for you, for free.” Sonja was relieved and excited at the prospect of having another wonderful and sweet companion to fill the void that her last dog left when he passed away.
The shy 12 pound Cairn Terrier mix was stray dog surviving for who knows how long on the streets of Baytown, Texas. Like many other homeless dogs’ fate, his luck took a turn for the worse when he was hit by a car and left for dead. A caring driver found him and brought him to Baytown Animal Shelter. There, the shelter staff had to make a difficult decision. Both of the little dog’s hips were shattered and were inoperable. Days went by and no owner came to claim the dog. Even if they fixed him, where would he go? Given the seriousness of his medical condition, the shelter contemplated if it would be best to euthanize him. Multiple dog rescue groups were contacted. Could they take a badly injured dog and help him recover from his serious injuries (and heartworms)? The heartbreaking answer from so many was “We are all full. We don’t have any more fosters.” Until they called Judy Jones, who works with rescues and fosters dogs herself. “I’ll take him,” Judy said without hesitation. Saying yes was the easy part Judy soon learned. This little dog would have to be on crate rest for 8 months as he was slowly nursed back to health and healed. Soon his foster Judy started to notice his big Texas personality…so she named him “Stormin’ Norman”. Somehow, Judy knew Norman was destined for something great. He was indeed. Paws for Heroes was looking for a small laid back dog for Sonja. When Paws for Heroes evaluated Norman, the volunteers smiled and looked at each other and both said “This is it-he’s the one we’ve been looking for.” After Norman was trained by Kelly Green with Green Dog Training, Norman was matched with Sonja 1 day shy of Sonja’s birthday. Sonja fell in love with him immediately. Sonja says “Norman is the perfect dog for me. He makes me laugh chasing the squirrels as if he is on squirrel patrol during the day. At night, he is curled up on my lap or sleeping quietly by my feet. He’s a really great dog. Thank you so much for bringing him into my life.”
Watch Sonja & Norman's video below!
Lashada and Rocky - Houston, Texas
Lashada was born and raised in Houston, Texas. At age 22, Lashada was accepted into the Army ROTC and received a 2 year college scholarship. She spent the next 13 years proudly serving her country. Lashada was deployed to Africa, Korea and Iraq. In 2009, Lashada was deployed to Iraq and spent a year working as a Military Intelligence Officer. Of all the places she was deployed, Lashada said she found Iraq the most rewarding. In Iraq, Lashada had the opportunity to deploy with the 1st Cavalry. She was one of 10 females serving in her division and is very proud of the work her fellow soldiers performed gathering intelligence on targets in Iraq. Lashada received many awards and campaign medals for her service including the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Overseas Service Ribbon, Meritorious Service medal, Army Achievement medal (3rd award), Army Commendation Medal (4th award), Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service medal, Global War on Terrorism medal and Korean Defense Service medal.
Lashada retired as a Major. When she began her transition to civilian life, she, like many veterans, found it far more difficult than she anticipated. While trying to reintegrate into the workforce, she lost her first job, but now feels more at home working for the government's General Accounting Office. At the same time, Lashada was about to be an empty-nester, because her son was going away to college soon. Already feeling the loss of military life, and anticipating the absence of her son, Lashada applied for a Paws for Heroes dog after hearing about us from Lone Star Veterans Association and The Mission Continues.
Rocky was a scared little abandoned dog found by Paws for Heroes’ foster Michelle Cote in Alvin, Texas. Michelle found the matted little furball by a feed store. He had been hanging out there for days. He was filthy and skinny. He jumped in her car and she knew it was a sign he was meant to have a big purpose in life. Michelle nursed the little guy back to health. She noticed he had an amazing sweet personality and was always so happy and upbeat. She contacted Paws for Heroes to see if they were looking for any little dogs. “He weighs 12 pounds but he has a HUGE personality!” she told Paws for Heroes. When Paws for Heroes evaluated him, they knew he was the perfect match for Lashada. Rocky and Lashada were matched on Veterans Day. Ever since that day, Lashada has been texting and sending videos of all of the fun she and Rocky are having together. Lashada said “Rocky is like having a best friend around all of the time who is up for doing whatever I want to do...whether that’s napping, watching football or going for a walk. He’s awesome!!” Lashada said one of the best parts of receiving a dog from Paws for Heroes was all of the information they provided, their willingness to answer any and all questions and being there every step of the way after Rocky was placed with her. Lashada said she received more than just a dog from Paws for Heroes—she now considers us extended family. Welcome to the family, Lashada and Rocky.
Watch Lashada and Rocky's video below!
Chris and Savior - Houston, Texas
Chris joined the Marines at age 21 in 1981. Being a female in the Marines back then was not easy. But Chris was resilient and served her country proudly. After Chris retired from the military, she suffered from PTSD and depression. Chris' daughter found Paws for Heroes and encouraged her Mom to apply for a companion dog.
While Chris was contemplating whether to apply to Paws for Heroes for a dog, and shorty after Hurricane Harvey came through, a brindle pit bull mix gave birth to a litter of puppies...at a gas station in Houston, Texas. The stray dog lived off of scraps at the gas station until someone contacted Adore Houston, a rescue group that saves homeless dogs off of the streets in Houston. Adore Houston took the stray dog into their program. Adore found homes for all of the puppies but they were having a hard time finding a home for the brindle pit mix. "There are so many pit bull mixes looking for homes and it is really hard to get them adopted out" Adore told Paws for Heroes.
By the time the brindle pit was rescued off of the streets by Adore, Chris had already applied for a dog. Paws for Heroes had interviewed Chris several times to determine what type of dog was best for Chris. The search for Chris' dog began and it was a tough one. Chris' trainer Kay Sevick with K9 Partners went to many shelters and rescues looking for a dog. In the meantime, Chris grew anxious waiting for her dog. Chris had already picked out the name "Savior" for her dog because she said "That's what my dog will be for me--my Savior." Sometimes she would send Paws for Heroes text messages asking about her dog.
These text messages from veterans waiting for their dogs were always so hard for Paws for Heroes to receive. But that's why the volunteers at Paws for Heroes do what they do--they know how much each dog helps their veteran heal especially for those veterans who have been suffering from severe PTSD for years. When Paws for Heroes contacted Adore to see if they had any good candidates, Adore immediately thought of their Gas Station Mama--she was super social, outgoing and had a great personality. After Paws for Heroes evaluated her, they knew she would be the perfect dog for Chris. Kay Sevick with K9 Partners trained Savior and soon it was time for Chris to meet Savior. Chris could not stop crying when Savior walked through the door of her house. From then on, they have been inseparable. Chris said Savior has encouraged her to get out the house more and walk and has drastically changed her life. "Ya'll found the perfect dog for me" Chris said about Savior. "She is the love of my life."
Watch Chris and Savior's video below!
David and June - Pearland, Texas
David joined the Marines in 2005. His primary speciality in the Marines was in the Military Police and then later he served as a Foreign Forces Trainer. David was Embedded Trainer with the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), a NATO led security mission in Afghanistan. David served in Iraq in 2008-2009 and Afghanistan from 2010-2011. David earned multiple medals, decorations, badges and campaign ribbons, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2nd Award), Global War on Terrorism Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan (2nd Award), among many others.
When David left the Marines after more than 7 years of service, he struggled like many other veterans transitioning home. He couldn’t sleep because of night terrors. He hated being in public. He got divorced. He felt lost. Then one day, on a lark, he went to a Vow 22 event. Vow 22 is a nonprofit founded in Brazoria County to help fight veteran suicide. At the Vow 22 event, he met DJ Beatty, and his Paws for Heroes dog, Axel. David said DJ explained how much Axel helped him with his PTSD. DJ encouraged David to get a dog from Paws for Heroes. David thought about it a lot. Finally, he decided to apply. Paws for Heroes met wit David and immediately knew a dog could help David with his PTSD and night terrors. Paws for Heroes found June, a Great Pyreenes. She was 75 pounds of pure love for David. David said the first night he had June, she helped calm him during a panic attack. Since then, June has become David’s best friend and a pal to his 2 kids. Congrats David and June!
Victor and Kota- Houston, Texas
Victor joined the Air Force in 2011 and served for over 4 years. When Victor returned to Houston, he faced the difficult task of trying to transition back to civilian life. Victor lived alone and was depressed. Sometimes it was difficult for Victor to even get out of bed some days. Victor found Paws for Heroes and applied for a dog. He waited patiently while the Paws for Heroes volunteers searched and searched for his dog. Then one day, Paws for Heroes sent him a photo. Victor said “Cool dog.” Paws for Heroes replied “Glad you think so. This is your new dog Kota!” After that, it was all history. Kota hangs with Victor now and has helped Victor out of his depression. Victor said Kota is a really cool dog and has really helped improve Victor’s outlook on life. Victor says “Kota is amazing and I am loving his personality! He makes me laugh one minute and then he comes up and buries his head in my lap because he wants to snuggle. I am so lucky to have him.” We think it’s the other way around but we’re not telling Victor that! Congrats Victor and Kota!
Watch Victor and Kota's video!
Joseph and Gigi- Alvin, Texas
Meet Joseph and Gigi! Joseph Greer served in the Army for 4 years. He was in Afghanistan from 2011 - 2012 until he was injured. Joseph was awarded a Purple Heart due to his actions and injuries in combat, among many other awards and medals.
When Joseph returned to Alvin, Texas, he suffered from PTSD. He reached out to Paws for Heroes for a companion. Paws for Heroes matched Joseph with Gigi, a very sweet white and brown pit mix who was rescued by Adore Houston. When Gigi met Joseph, she melted into his arms. Joseph says Gigi makes him laugh and everyone loves her. “She helps keeps me focused on the here and now when she looks up at me with those big, sweet brown eyes.” Welcome to the Paws for Heroes family Joseph and Gigi! Thanks to Green Dog Training for getting Gigi trained and ready for Joseph and thank you Cindy and Rick Rochette for sponsoring the match!
Jeff and Nuke - Katy, Texas
Jeff joined the Navy in 2001. He served his country for over 6 years. Jeff was a Nuclear Electronics Technician. Nuclear Electronics Technicians operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants. In 2003-2004, Jeff was deployed to Iraq to support the war. In 2007, Jeff retired from the military.
Jeff and his wife Kristin have 3 beautiful kids and they were looking to add another family member who would do well with their kids and bring the family laughter and companionship. After Paws for Heroes met Jeff, they contacted their rescue partner Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue. Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue had just what the doctor ordered! A cute small and funny little beagle mix. However, this little beagle had a rough start....he was found out in the woods wandering around. He had a bad case of mange and was pretty scrawny. At Harris County Animal Shelter, his future was uncertain...until Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue stepped in and adopted him!!
"Nuke" he was his name, Jeff said. He had already picked out his name for their future dog. Jeff's whole family was so excited to meet Nuke. They made Nuke a "Welcome Home" poster and had a dog bed in every room for their new family member. Nuke walked in and went right up to Jeff and sat down. Jeff gave him a little piece of hot dog. Nuke's tail wagged quickly back and forth. Happy Tails for everyone!!!
Check out Jeff and Nuke's interview with Combined Arms and Paws for Heroes!
Angel and Metro - Houston, Texas
Angel, who lives in Houston, followed what he calls a family tradition-to join the military. Angel served in the U.S. Army for five years. He served two tours in Iraq, helping to identify and gather information from suspected members of such groups as al-Qaida, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and various Shiite militias. “We helped find the people that could be exploited for information,” he said.
During his second Iraq tour in 2009, an Iranian-made explosive device blew up and destroyed the vehicle he was traveling in. Angel made it out with his life, but the explosion left him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD. “The funny thing is, the gentleman who tried to kill us, I interrogated him two days after the event,” he said. “They thought we were the bad guys. After the interrogation, I stood up, and he thought I was going to hurt him. But I gave him a big hug,” Angel said, adding that he was able to convince the man that he’d been led astray, that U.S. soldiers weren’t his enemies.
Angel had a distinguished career in the Army: He was awarded an Iraq campaign medal with two campaign stars and an Army commendation medal (2nd award) among many others for his overseas deployments. Angel transitioned out of the Army in 2009 and returned back to Houston, his home town. Today, he has a wife and three beautiful daughters and works as a senior operations manager at a document company. He’s been out of the Army for more than a decade now. But he’s still coping with the effects of his PTSD. Angel decided he wanted to make a change. He knew he needed something to help him get out more and get active.
He thought a companion animal might be a good fit for his life, and so he started looking at different organizations that train dogs for veterans. “The one that stood out to me was Paws for Heroes,” he said, adding that he liked their mission, how they get funding and their standing in the community.
Angel was paired up with a stray white labrador mixed-breed male that was found abandoned—at a Houston transit center metro. Fosters from Red Collar Rescue found this sweet dog wandering around and couldn’t leave him. They took him home and named him “Metro.” Paws for Heroes evaluated him and knew he would be perfect for Angel. Metro has had a calming influence on Angel and those around him, he said. Angel takes Metro to work every day and Metro been a huge hit with co-workers and with Angel’s family. “He’s been very kind and gentle with all of my daughters….Since Metro been placed with us, he’s been nothing short of amazing”.