JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The term "man's best friend" conjures different images in everyone's mind. Whether its fond memories of the love and comfort of your first childhood puppy or the necessity of the police dogs present at airports; it is undeniable that dogs have become a widespread part of many people's lives.
To recipients of the "Canines for Veterans" program, the role of service dogs in their lives contributes both emotional and technical assistance by specializing in mobility and post-traumatic stress disorder support.
During a ceremony at the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston Aug. 26, an18-month-old yellow Labrador retriever named Gaza, was placed with Chief Petty Officer Jeannette Tarqueno, a Navy gunner's mate and wounded warrior. She hopes Gaza will be able to provide more independence and comfort in her life.
Tarqueno has been serving a distinguished career in the Navy for more than 11 years, including tours aboard the USS Cowpens homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, and aboard the USS Port Royal homeported in Joint Base Pearl Harbor - Hickam, Hawaii.
While serving on the USS Port Royal, Tarqueno was struck on the left side of her head by a 30-pound armored plate bracket that fell from the deck above. Although seriously injured, Tarqueno has become an inspirational example of how to overcome obstacles and achieve her goals.
After the incident, she was selected for promotion to chief petty officer and has competed in the 2012 and 2013 Wounded Warrior games as a key member of the Navy cycling team.
Despite these accomplishments, Tarqueno said, "As service members, it is sometimes difficult to put aside our pride and ask for help."
CFV is a nationally recognized program that provides quality, trained service dogs to disabled veterans. Since 2010 this organization has collaborated with the NCBC, working to rescue dogs from local shelters, rehabilitate military prisoners and revive the lives of wounded veterans.
Rescued dogs must pass a rigorous set of physical, medical and temperament tests to be accepted in the training program. Additionally, CFV actively searches for adoption homes for dogs that don't make the cut to become one of these highly trained companions.
The organization not only focuses on training dogs, but also on training servicemembers ... providing them the skills they need to mold these dogs into companions. Inmates of NCBC are specially selected for this assignment and teach the dogs to perform more than 90 commands. When fully trained, the dogs can retrieve and carry objects, turn on the lights and even load laundry.
Most importantly, the dogs are a source of love and companionship. Both the veteran and the dog are a team and make the transition back to independence together.
After a challenging application process, Tarqueno was paired with Gaza to help her overcome her limitations and achieve her goal of completing her Navy career.
"It's a wonderful program. I couldn't be more blessed to have such an incredible companion," said Tarqueno.
Rick Hairston, co-founder CFV, attended the recipient ceremony at NCBC.
In his parting words to Tarqueno, Hairston said, "I want to thank you for your service, and we are proud to make life a little better for you."
The CFV program touches the lives of many individuals throughout Charleston through saving dogs from animal shelters, to military prisoner rehabilitation and giving back to wounded veterans. However, this program also needs your help.
Currently there are two highly trained dogs that are in need of a good home in the Charleston area. These dogs were unable to complete the training curriculum but would still make a great pet. If you would like more information on adoption, contact Laura Conn at firstname.lastname@example.org.