Cheers were plentiful Saturday morning during an emotional adoption ceremony at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Humvee and Scout, both nearly 3-year-old greyhounds, were introduced to their new owners during a presentation organized by Barbara Masi, president and founder of Awesome Greyhound Adoptions.
The organization selects, vets and fosters retired racing greyhounds and turns them over to be trained by Service Dogs 4 Servicemen as part of its Hero Project.
The Hollywood-based nonprofit founded two years ago by Sara Donadei-Blood pairs fully trained service dogs with veterans in need.
Humvee and Scout, both retired racing greyhounds at Palm Beach Kennel Club, have spent the past five months training with certified trainer Daniel De La Rosa at Petropolis Park, a doggy day-care and boarding facility in Hollywood.
They are the fifth and sixth greyhounds the organization has placed through its Hero Project. Four more are in the process of being trained, Donadei-Blood said.
“We pull retired racing greyhounds out of the holding kennels,” she said. “Daniel has them four to six months. He gets them from raw, not knowing anything, to dogs that stand by their person and do different behaviors and assist their human.”
The dogs are trained primarily to provide mobility assistance and post-traumatic stress disorder support.
Leo Salas, 31, a Fort Lauderdale resident who spent nearly 12 years with the Marines, has relied heavily on Scout to help him work through his post-traumatic stress disorder.
A father of three, he’s struggled with leaving his home for extended periods of time.
“I’d become very closed off,” he said. “I refused to come out of the house. The few weekends he spent at the house I’ve already felt obligated to get out and train him. It’s helped me to slowly transition myself to getting back out of the house and part of society. It’s just good to have an extra friend.”
Jorge Lopez, 27, an Army veteran who lives in Miami Gardens, has relied on Humvee to help him with mobility issues and address his PTSD.
“He helps me with my balance,” he said.
Masi organized Saturday’s event to coincide with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ PTSD Awareness Month.
Invited guests included Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who recently adopted a dog of his own, and Palm Beach County Commissioners Hal Valeche and Paulette Burdick.
Marine Corps veteran Jesse Bergeron also participated in Saturday’s ceremony. He was paired with Doc, the fourth greyhound to be placed by Service Dogs 4 Servicemen, in December.
“He’s been slowly teaching me patience,” he said. “Doc, coupled with my two daughters, gets me to think. We tend to be short-tempered. That’s one of the biggest effects of PTSD. He’s also gotten me into a routine.”
For information on Service Dogs 4 Servicemen, visit servicedogs4servicemen.com. For information on Awesome Greyhound Adoptions, call 561-737-1941 or visit awesomegreyhoundadoptions.org