Paws for Purple Hearts helping veterans heal, one puppy at a time

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 2:53 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - They’re cute, cuddly, playful and friendly, but they’re also in training to become service dogs for Veterans through the nonprofit organization, Paws for Purple Hearts, where the mission is to provide high quality service dogs to veterans and warriors who are in need.

It all starts at the organization’s new facility in Anchorage, where the goal is to not only train dogs, but open the door to the community as well.

“Our second mission is to educate the community about service dogs, dogs in the public, what to expect, what the rules are, what questions to ask,” Program Instructor Melissa Kitko said.

During the day, Kitko said the dogs are learning things like how to turn off and on light switches, retrieve medicine or items from a refrigerator and basic manners, but during the night, they go home with people like Austin Lasater, also known as a puppy parent. He and his wife have been housing Tank for the last six months.

“He went from a scrawny like 30 pounds and now he’s 70,” Lasater said.

“Puppy parents are invaluable in that they provide a home environment full of love, encouragement, support, interaction, socialization, but the fun thing is they take the puppies or the dogs when their schedule allows,” Kitko added.

Paws for Purple Hearts provides all the supplies the puppy needs, things like vet care, but the puppy parents supply the love.

“So as the veterans and warriors help us with the dogs, we’re helping them, and so it’s a very wonderful relationship that we can do and provide,” Kitko said.

“My wife kind of has, she can have health problems every now and again and the dog is very good at recognizing when she’s in pain, so we see that first hand,” Lasater said.

Each of the dogs have two sets of puppy parents. One takes them Monday through Thursday, the other, Friday through Sunday. So far, Paws for Purple Hearts placed two dogs and currently have three in training. Kitko said they should get another one in January.

If you’re interested in learning more, call ahead before dropping in. Their new location is 7049 Artic Blvd. Anchorage, AK 99518.

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