Pet Valu is partnering with The U.S. War Dogs for its seventh annual Patriotic Pets Campaign
By Samantha Bambino
Not all soldiers have two legs. Believe it or not, some have four…and fur.
When it comes to war, it’s easy to visualize men in camouflage and helmets, protecting each other through battle. What many don’t realize is the support these men are getting from their war dog companions, who are able to sniff out explosives and sense dangers the human body can’t. But when the soldiers finish their term and fly back to the U.S., their four-legged friends are left overseas. Pet Valu and The United States War Dog Association are fighting to get our furry soldiers home through the 7th annual Patriotic Pets Campaign.
Pet Valu, a pet supply chain with locations throughout the Northeast, including Bucks County, the Midwest and Canada, prides itself on being a local community partner with a strong focus on animal adoption. In 2010, Pet Valu partnered with The U.S. War Dogs, a nonprofit that works to better the lives of these dogs, to create the Patriotic Pets Campaign.
At each Pet Valu location through Sept. 11, customers can purchase an American flag bandana for $5 or a Paper Paw to hang in the store’s window for an amount of their choosing. All funds raised are donated to The U.S. War Dogs for several different programs.
The largest amount is put toward the transportation of veteran dogs back to the U.S. According to Anna DiGregorio, director of marketing at Pet Valu, once the dogs are finished with their service, there is rarely transportation available for them to come home.
“They’re just left over there. It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “How can you do that to a dog that served our country?”
For Ron Aiello, creator and president of The U.S. War Dogs, this situation was all too real when he served as a Marine in Vietnam from 1966–67 with his four-legged companion Stormy. While serving together as a Marine Scout Dog Team, Aiello and the rest of his troop grew to love her.
“I remember one Marine asked if he could pet her and he sat down and hugged her and let her lick his face, and they were like that for about 10 minutes. When he got up, he was calm and ready. I saw her have that effect on people a number of times,” Aiello said. “She was really a therapy dog for all of us. I honestly believe if I’d been there without Stormy, I’d be a different person today. We had a great friendship.”
However, that friendship was cut short when Aiello’s term was over. He was sent back to the U.S. while Stormy stayed in Vietnam to serve on a new dog team. Though he tried to contact the U.S. Marine Corps about adopting her, he never heard back and to this day doesn’t know if she ever made it out of Vietnam.
From that day on, Aiello vowed no other dog or soldier would have to go through what he and Stormy did, thus creating The U.S. War Dogs to help bring our four-legged soldiers home.
In addition to transportation, funds from the Patriotic Pets Campaign help the dogs find forever homes, and assist the new owners in caring for their new family member. Many times, just like any human soldier, a war dog will return with PTSD. Prescription drugs are needed to help them live a full life, but these can add up to sometimes $800 a month. Through the campaign, the costs of the medications are taken care of, relieving the family of the large financial burden.
The campaign also supports services to reunite military service dogs with their handlers, including Mission K9 Rescue, a Chapter 6 organization of The U.S. War Dogs that facilitates reunions at no cost to the military service members. To date, they’ve reunited more than 60 K9 and handler teams.
Since its creation in 2010, the Patriotic Pets Campaign has gained steady traction each year, raising more than $1.2 million for The U.S. War Dogs. Pet Valu customers love it, according to DiGregorio, and share pictures of their own pets wearing the bandana on social media using the hashtag #PVPatrioticPets.
On July 18, several Pet Valu employees will get together at a small shed at Aiello’s New Jersey home to create care packages to be sent overseas to war dogs and their handlers. The packages include everything from treats and toys for the dogs to books for the soldiers.
The Patriotic Pets Campaign will run until Sept. 11 at all Pet Valu stores. Locations in Bucks County include 464 N. Main Street (Doylestown Shopping Center) in Doylestown, 2814 S. Eagle Road (Village at Newtown Shopping Center) in Newtown and 511 S. Oxford Valley Road (Queen Anne Plaza) in Fairless Hills.
For more information on Pet Valu, visit us.petvalu.com. To learn more about The United States War Dog Association, visit uswardogs.org. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org