DES MOINES - Dogs have shown their heroism in combat. Now, two prominent central Iowans who have led efforts to restore the U.S.S. Iowa have taken on a new challenge, launching the Puppy Jake Foundation to provide service dogs with the combat veterans who need them.
Former Iowa Senate President Jeff Lamberti, who also is an owner of the Iowa Barnstormers, and colleague Becky Beach said the tax-deductible, non-profit organization takes its name from a well-known awareness and advocacy ambassador for service dogs, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever named Puppy Jake.
"Our mission is to connect well-bred, highly trained service dogs with combat veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or have other needs that require the assistance of a service dog. We'll do that by identifying dog breeders and trainers who share our commitment to helping men and women who have served our country and now need us to be there for them," Lamberti said. "A number of dog breeders and volunteer trainers have already stepped up to show their support for the foundation."
Three breeds of dogs - Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers - will be trained through the program. Beach expects the first class of six to nine dogs to be ready for service in the fall of 2014.
"Service dogs are expensive, but their costs pale in comparison to the cost of what the veteran, the member of the US armed services, has given for our individual freedom and the freedom for our country. Our program will be very thorough and tough, with the dogs required to pass monthly benchmarks. If they don't pass, they'll receive special training until they're able to clear that hurdle," Beach said.
The organization's first major event will be an April 25 fundraising reception to be held at the Sticks, Inc. Studio, 3631 SW 61st St., Des Moines. Tickets are $100 per couple and available on the group's website, www.puppyjakefoundation.com.