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Patriots for Puppies: Affectionate salute to vets’ ‘best friends’

Cheryl Marshall (holding Austin), Meg Peterson (holding Dallas), and Laurie Beebe (holding Ranger)

The beautiful Pointe West clubhouse was radiant with red, white and blue, and the hum of conversation and music filled the air, as the 100-plus attendees of the third annual Patriots for Puppies fundraiser – dogs and humans alike – mixed and mingled in support of Dogs for Life.

The Vero Beach-based nonprofit is dedicated to training and providing service dogs to assist with hearing, mobility and PTSD to veterans and individuals with disabilities in Indian River and St. Lucie counties. They also provide therapy dogs for first responders and school resource programs and offer veteran PTSD recovery and support groups, including one for female veterans and first responders.

Among the guests, as a heartwarming example of what DFL has accomplished since its founding in 2001, were uniformed active and retired members of the military with their DFL-provided service dog partners, as well as others who have benefited from DFL service dog training, and volunteers escorting pooches still in various stages of training.

Lt. Col. Don Peterson (U.S. Army, Ret.), a volunteer puppy raiser with wife Meg, stood in the parking lot, patiently holding the leash of 3-month-old Dallas as he took a little potty break.

The bouncy black Labrador retriever, a service-dog-in-training, soon headed to the entrance to eagerly join his brother and classmate Austin, accompanied by Meg, and 10-week-old golden retriever Ranger, accompanied by Laurie Beebe. The three adorable puppies served as the event’s official greeters.

Other pooches and their humans in attendance included: U.S. Marine veteran Richie Keller with golden retriever GiGi; Maureen Turner with mini-poo brothers Angus and Grady; U.S. Navy veteran Jim Hyde with Labrador retriever Otis; Dani Ley with retriever/corgi mix Ollie; Dr. Nancy Kicherer with Labrador retriever Stryker; Phil Tettleton with Labrador retriever Sully; and first responder Tim Barnes with Lab mix Gypsy.

The red, white and blue theme was carried throughout, from the centerpiece flowers topped with American flags to the colors of Old Glory worn by many of the guests for the occasion.

Entertainment was provided by Touchdown DJ Productions, who kept the music upbeat and danceable, and performances by the popular oldies trio The Dolls, who elicited more than a few tears with their heartfelt rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Shelly Ferger, Dogs for Life founder, CEO and director of training, was delighted to report that this year’s fundraiser was the most successful yet, bringing in $130,000, principally through the generosity of the 42 sponsors.

The success of the silent auction, said Ferger, was “the icing on the cake, with each and every one of the 177 items sold – from diamond stud earrings to a one-of-a-kind patriotic quilt.”

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Photos by Brittany Norair

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