HOPE’s service dog Lulu soaks up some sun.

Did you know that according to the National Pet Owners Survey, approximately 70% of households in the United States, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet? And to break that down even further, are you surprised to learn that roughly 69 million of those families have a dog?

Dogs serve many purposes. For most of us, they are a shoulder to lean on after a long day, a furry companion to keep us smiling, or our favorite exercise buddy to hit the trails with. But for about 500,000 members of the military community, dogs are way more than that. They act as a service animal, playing a vital role in their everyday lives.

Here at Hope For The Warriors, we have a service dog who we hold very close to our hearts. Lulu Kelleher, a 7-and-a-half-year-old Labrador Retriever, serves as our organization’s therapy dog and routinely has a positive impact on HOPE staff and members of the warrior community.  

“Lulu loves going into the office,” says Robin Kelleher, CEO and President of Hope For The Warriors. “I noticed that during meetings, she knows exactly who is uncomfortable and can pick them out every time. She loves being with our clients and knows exactly what she is supposed to do. She is part of the Kelleher family and the HOPE family.”

When a member of the military community has experienced a service-related trauma, it can affect them long after service has ended. Whether it is a battle with PTSD, coping with a traumatic brain injury, or having experienced a military sexual trauma, service dogs like Lulu are there to answer the call and provide relief.    

“Trained service dogs make essential partners for people who need extra assistance,” says Robin. “They also play a “best friend” role. By nature, they understand moods and are very reactive to sadness, despair, and fear.”

In order to fill this role, these dogs go through specialized training that begins in the puppy phase. Aside from learning their basic manners, dogs headed down the service path will go through specific task training to aid in physical disabilities and read emotions to help in stressful situations. But this training doesn’t just stop when they get placed with their newfound battle buddy — it requires a lifelong dedication to keeping them on this path. 

“When considering a service dog, your family and household must be ready and committed,” says Robin. “They take work and deserve attention. A trained service dog is a wonderful family dog; however, they also have a job and are trained to meet the needs of the veteran. They are not taking the place of family members, but instead are an integral part of the family.”  

HOPE partners with several organizations that provide members of the military community in need with a service dog. If you feel that you or a loved one would benefit from this, please refer to the below resources as a great place to get started! If you are interested in learning of other ways HOPE can serve you, click here to connect to our services. 

Service Dog Resources

Assistance Dogs International 

Semper K9  

K9 For Warriors  

America’s Vet Dogs  

Paws For Purple Hearts