Service Animal Project celebrates two years

Published 3:05 pm Friday, August 29, 2014

Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford with Bomber

Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford with Bomber

Service Animal Project (SAP), formed in 2012 by Foothills Humane Society volunteers Ann Goodheart, Sev Bennett and Mary Ann Merrill, has since added a fourth volunteer, Linda Williams and is celebrating its two-year anniversary.

SAP identifies shelter dogs in North and South Carolina that possess the desirable traits to become psychological service dogs for men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). SAP does initial training and boarding of the dogs and then transports them to K9s for Warriors in Jacksonville, Fla., where they receive their specialized training and are paired with a warrior who needs them. In its two years of operation, 18 of SAP’s dogs have graduated from K9s with their humans and three more are currently in training.

Two of SAP’s dogs are with warriors who are often in the spotlight. One of those is Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford and Bomber. Sgt. Lunsford, a native of North Carolina, is a survivor of the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood. He was shot seven times and was blinded in one eye. Bomber is a 90 lb. Great Pyrenees/ Ovcharka mix that SAP members found at Blue Ridge Humane Society. He is the perfect match for the 6’9” Sgt. Lunsford and was specifically trained for him by K9s.

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Upon their meeting for the first time, their connection was immediate. Part of Sgt. Lunsford’s healing process is to travel the country testifying and speaking about the shooting and raise awareness about PTSD. With Bomber by his side, he “can go anywhere and feel safe.”

The American Legion Post 250 will host their annual Spaghetti Dinner Saturday Aug. 30. The proceeds will benefit SAP.

Those who weren’t able to make it for spaghetti but still want to help fund SAP’s work can mail a check made to “Foothills Humane Society (FHS) – Service Animal Project”, P.O. Box 126, Tryon, N.C. 28782.

– article submitted
by Sev Bennett