Local charity pairs service dogs with disabled vets

PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - A local charity is helping spread the love to those who may need it most by pairing them with the perfect companions — dogs.

Twenty-one-year-old Tommy was diagnosed with autism at age five. His mom, Lourdes de Dios said he has a hard time making friends, but now he has a new fluffy companion named Blue.

“This little guy right here, he already has a name,” said Blues for Vets President Raquel Cruz. “His name is Blue.”

Blue was donated by Petland of Pembroke Pines and Blues for Vets, a non-profit organization.

Blue will be trained by Raul Ledesma to become a certified service dog. “Depending on the specific need for the individual, it depends on what type of dog we usually get,” said Ledesma. “In this purpose it will be an emotional support animal for Tommy.”

Once a month, Petland of Pembroke Pines donates a puppy to the non-profit, and in return, Blues for Vets picks a veteran or a person with disabilities to receive it.

Petland’s owner said he is happy to connect with Blues for Vets and hopes to donate more dogs in the future. “It was an immediate connection,” said Petland’s owner, Luis Marquez, “and we just hope to continue to grow with them, to continue to help more veterans as we expand. We’re looking to scale from one puppy a month to about three or four puppies a month.”

With each puppy donated, another vet or disabled person receives the help they need.

“It’s difficult having a child with special needs,” said Lourdes, “and every little thing that can make our lives easier and enhance it is unexplainable.”

Blues for Vets was started by Cruz, a disabled war veteran herself, and it was all in name of her service dog, who was also named Blue.

Cruz trained Blue’s eight puppies to serve other veterans, and the program has been pairing dogs with vets ever since.

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