For some people, a simple image is all they need to motivate them to do something that impacts more people in life. For Pat Garvos, it was two pictures – crosses on a beach and a dog jumping out of a helicopter.
Remembering war heroes
Garvos, who lives in Oswego, saw a photo of the crosses on the Santa Monica Beach, each representing a service person that died in Afghanistan or Iraq. She eventually visited the beach and decided that she wanted to do more to remember those who have died defending America. In May of 2011, she started the 52-week challenge of Patriotism while blogging for the Patch, asking people to do more for their country.
She has gotten involved with local schools and helped create a variety of events to remember – from a Fourth of July event in which her community held up the names of soldiers who have died to leaving shoes along the highway in honor of all who died on 9/11 to having school kids send letters to veterans on Veterans Day. The letter campaign resulted in 4,700 letters going out to those in the VA and Nursing Homes in the area.
Supporting our canine veterans
It was the image of a dog that really motivated Garvos to do much more. It was a photo of a military working dog (MWD) jumping out of a helicopter with a parachute in a combat zone. She found that the dogs are 85 percent successful in finding bombs and save from three to five lives of our troops daily. They also need special gear like cooling vests and ‘doggles’ (dog goggles) not supplied by the military.
“These dogs play such an important roll in keeping our troops safe and helping our soldiers complete their jobs. It’s so much more than bomb sniffing,” says Garvos. “Many people don’t realize that a MWD was the first in the compound when our troops took down Osama Bin Laden. He was wearing an ear piece and camera and a SEAL 3,000 feet away gave him commands while the military and White House watched the video feed.”
Garvos’ research of the dogs of war also lead to a starting fact – after putting their lives on the line to keep American service men and women safe in combat zones, many of these dogs are euthanized when their time is up. While a few dogs are deemed adoptable, others may be sick, injured, have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or just be too aggressive. That led her to founding the Warrior Dog Project.
She also connected with two other organizations working to help the dogs Support Military Working Dogs and Save-A-Vet. The Columbus, Ohio-based Support Military Working Dogs raises funds for equipment the dogs need in war not covered by the government. Along with cooling vests and ‘doggles’, that equipment includes special boots to protect them from the hot sand and special ear protection to protect them from noise in the helicopter. Lindenhurst-based Save-A-Vet finds homes or takes care of unadoptable MWDs and is working on a retirement home for these dogs and disabled veterans.
“When I learned that so many of these dogs put their life on the line and then they get a death sentence instead of a retirement, it grabbed me. I thought – how can you euthanize them,” says Garvos. “I asked myself – how much would it be worth to you to actually help protect or save just one soldier, or one of these incredible dogs who save countless troops lives? I didn’t have much money but I thought that if I was able to get my community together behind this cause we could raise funds, educate and build awareness.”
To help raise awareness and raises funds for both organizations, Garvos and the Warrior Dog Project will be hosting a variety of events starting Sunday, April 1 through April 14.
- Walkin’ The Dog – From 9 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 1, the group will be in Hudson Park in Oswego for a kid- and dog-friendly event. Dogs may come dressed in their best military gear and enjoy free coffee, donuts and treats for the four-legged warriors.
- Paws Fur Thought – From noon until 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, Pat Garvos will be at the Oswego Public Library to talk about why she is so passionate about this project and will show an inspirational video. There will be fun kid events as well.
- Coffee Paws – This event will be at the Village Grind Coffee Shop between 7 and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, and will feature the video and a talk by Garvos. Tickets for this event are $20 with proceeds benefiting the two organizations.
More events are scheduled on Friday, April 13 with Luis Carlos Montalvan, author of “Until Tuesday” along with his service dog Tuesday. There will also be a Dog-o-Rama on Saturday, April 14 in the Petco Parking lot with special guest Danny Scheurer of Save-a-Vet and MWD Nero between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. More details of both events are online.
Learn more about The Warrior Dog Project and Garvos’ work online. Also learn more about Support Military Working Dogs online and Save-A-Vet online or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
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