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News Article

UTC-Sponsored Veterans Moving Forward Celebrates 5 Years of Providing Canine Support Services

Finn, a VMF service dog in training.
Eagle, a Yellow Labrador service dog in training greets a WWII veteran at an Honor Flight event in Washington, DC.
Wesley, one of the newest VMF dogs in training.

​This summer, Veterans Moving Forward (VMF) celebrates its 5th anniversary of providing service dogs and canine therapy services to military veterans. VMF was founded in 2010 by retired naval officer Karen Jeffries and executive entrepreneur Bob Larson with the mission to provide canine support to veterans suffering from mental and physical health challenges at no cost to the veterans. To do so, VMF tests and acquires puppies from qualified breeders and then socializes and trains them with help of volunteer puppy raisers.

“The wonderful financial contribution provided by UTC last year has really made a difference in our ability to provide these services,” said Lyn Sherlock, Brigadier General, USAF (ret), member, VMF Board of Directors. “UTC’s grant has helped us obtain additional puppies this past spring and summer who have begun their training to become service, therapy and facility dogs to assist veterans.”

In the past five years, VMF has acquired and trained a total of 24 service dogs. Seven dogs have been trained and placed as full-time service dogs with military veterans. When a veteran’s service dog application is accepted, he or she meets with VMF representatives and dogs to determine which service dog is the best match to help them mitigate their disability. Service dogs then go through customized training to meet their veteran’s specific physical and mental health needs. 

Service dog Buckles is a two year old Yellow Labrador who lives with a Marine veteran. In just a couple of weeks after receiving Buckles, the veteran felt more confident about being in public and reduced the amount of medications he needed to treat his anxiety and to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Service dogs are very intuitive and are trained to soothe their owners when they experience nightmares or emotional discomfort. Currently placed VMF service dogs interrupt nightmares and anxiety behaviors that may bring on a PTSD flashback, help veterans retrieve assistive devices and medication, assist with activities of daily living, and stabilize and brace on stairs. For example, VMF Service Dog Jug will alert his veteran of oncoming migraines. VMF Service Dog Katrina helps her veteran identify and retrieve items such as his wallet, cell phone and keys, since he is unable to do so. These tasks help their veterans achieve increased physical independence and confidence.   

In addition to service dogs, VMF also trains facility and therapy dogs. Facility and therapy dogs are trained to provide emotional support to military service members at hospitals, hospices, recovery centers and many other military organizations. VMF has a team of a dozen therapy dogs who, along with the Assistance Dogs In Trainings (ADIT), visit veterans at Vinson Hall military retirement community in McLean and the USO at Dulles and in Bethesda. Their visits are always a hit, and their presence gives veterans a brief reprieve and a chance to socialize with other veterans in a relaxed environment.

Looking ahead, VMF is determined to continue to provide service dog and canine therapy services at no cost to military veterans in need.  In the past six months, VMF has acquired four new puppies that are currently undergoing training to become service dogs. 

"It has been an honor for UTC to support VMF and our nation's veterans. The service dogs provide comfort and assistance to those who were disabled while serving their country, and it is gratifying to know their lives will be a little easier with the support of these highly trained animals. The dogs really do enable veterans to move forward and live rich and productive lives ". Marty Hauser, Dir. Of Government Communications

VMF is a 501(c) nonprofit organization that relies on volunteers and donations to fulfill their mission. To learn more about VMF and their dogs’ contributions please visit their website at: