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Warrior Canine Connection Newsletter - May 2015

Navy CAPT (Dr.) Robert Koffman (Ret,) accepts the U.S. Special Operations Command Patriot Award from Navy Adm. William H. McRaven at the Pentagon in December 2013. Accompanying him is WCC facility dog Ron.
Introducing Chief Medical Officer Robert Koffman, M.D.
In March 2015, Warrior Canine Connection welcomed retired Navy Captain Robert Koffman, M.D. into the newly created role of Chief Medical Officer. Although Dr. Koffman is new to the WCC staff, he has long been involved with the Warrior Canine Connection program, and is a leading expert in treating combat related post-traumatic stress. He connected with the program when WCC opened its flagship program office at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in Bethesda, MD.
Dr. Koffman has a passion for the work of WCC, and for Canine Connection Therapy as a non-pharmaceutical therapeutic intervention for Warriors with post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injuries. In his role at WCC, he supports Warriors as they go through the application and matching process with service dogs, and is involved with two service dog training research studies with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, NICoE, and the University of Maryland Center for Family Studies.

"As the inaugural Chief Medical Officer for this amazing organization, I am delighted to be part of the collaborative effort, currently conceived by Warrior Canine Connection to redefine the concept of wellness as it applies to the sometimes recovering but always resilient service member," Dr. Koffman said.

"According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the human–canine bond is influenced by emotional, psychological, and physical interactions critical and essential to the health, longevity, and well-being of both human beings and dogs. WCC's mission is equally critical in defining, studying, and promoting this role. I am proud to be one of their newest members!"

At the time of his retirement from the Navy, Dr. Koffman was the Senior Consultant for Integrative Medicine and Behavioral Health at NICoE. During his service, he accumulated 17 years of operational experience as a Naval medical officer in Operation Desert Storm, Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, several aircraft carrier and amphibious vehicle deployments, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other previous positions include Director for Psychological Health to the Navy Surgeon General, Navy collaborator and investigator to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and Department Chief for Clinical Operations at NICoE.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him is the U.S. Special Operations Command Patriot Award, which is annually given to one individual or organization that provides significant and enduring support to wounded Warriors and their families.
Dr. Koffman himself was the recipient of Ron, a member of the original 2013 graduating class of Warrior Canine Connection. While at NICoE, Ron worked with Dr. Koffman as a facility dog who assisted in the treatment of hundreds of Warriors who experienced post-traumatic stress. He continues to be a constant presence by Dr. Koffman’s side. 

We are honored to welcome Dr. Koffman to the Warrior Canine Connection Family.
Not One, But Two Litters! 

If you have been following Warrior Canine Connection on social media and's "puppy cam," you've seen our newest litter of future service dogs. This litter of seven Labrador Retrievers was born in April 2015 to "Temple" as part of a cooperative breeding effort between WCC and Power Paws Assistance Dogs, an Arizona service dog organization. Under the agreement, four of Temple's pups -- named the "Semper Fi" litter -- will stay in Brookeville, with the remainder of the litter heading to Power Paws. The term Semper Fi, short for Semper Fidelis, is Latin for "always faithful." It is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps. 

The sire of this litter is none other than Stanley, a member of the WCC Honor Litter, born in 2013. We'd like to thank Power Paws for allowing us to care for Temple through her pregnancy and whelping. The new WCC puppies have not yet been named -- follow us on Facebook for the latest news. But you can watch them online as they grow: simply click on the puppy face on WCC's website.

The second piece of big news is that Olive is expecting another litter in June! The announcement was made on Mother's Day. This is Olive's third and final litter. She is also the mother of our Honor and Gratitude litters of Labrador Retrievers. The need for highly skilled service dogs for Veterans is great. The continued growth of our program to meet that need is due to your generous financial support -- thank you!

We Need YOU to Help Us Win the Crowdrise Veterans Charity Challenge 3! 

We're excited to announce that WCC is once again participating in this competitive fundraiser benefitting America's heroes, including Veterans and military families. Our organizers have some fun new challenges in store for WCC supporters during the challenge, which begins on May 21 and ends July 2.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see how you can participate in this important fundraiser, which is a critical source of funding for the expansion of the WCC program to Warriors and their families.


Extraordinary Care: The Veterinarian Who Keeps WCC Dogs in Top Shape

In this newsletter, we introduce Joellen Gregory, D.V.M., the veterinarian responsible for the health and wellbeing of WCC program dogs from birth through their placement with Veterans. Dr. Gregory practices at the Olney-Sandy Spring Veterinary Hospital (OSSVH) in Montgomery County, MD, near WCC’s Healing Quarters in Brookeville.
Dr. Gregory joined OSSVH a decade ago after graduating from Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Being a veterinarian wasn’t her first career choice – she originally planned to become a diplomat working for the U.S. Department of State. After receiving her political science degree, she realized that the diplomatic
 life wasn’t for her.
“I looked around my house one day, and thought, ‘How will I move from country to country every three years with all of these animals?’” she told us. “I did some soul searching and the only thing that made sense was veterinary medicine.” Dr. Gregory went back to undergraduate school, then on to veterinary school. Today, she is working toward board certification in Theriogenology – the branch of veterinary medicine concerned with reproduction – while continuing to work full time.

Dr. Gregory’s keen interest in breeding has been a valuable asset to Warrior Canine Connection since the December 2011 whelping of the Patriotic Litter. Since then, she has overseen the breeding and whelping of Holly’s Half Dozen; the Honor, Valor, and Gratitude, and the new Semper Fi litter of WCC puppies.

Dr. Gregory’s involvement with WCC puppies goes far beyond their first weeks – she is the organization’s “go-to” medical expert for all health-related services during the dogs’ first 24 – 30 months of life. “There is literally nothing that Dr. Gregory won’t do for us,” explained Molly Morelli, Director of Dog Programs for WCC. “She goes out of her way to help, making house calls, answering countless questions and providing valuable advice, even allowing our puppies to spend afternoons at her office in order to feel comfortable in a veterinary setting. I honestly don’t know what we would do without her.”
Why does she do it? “There’s something about this organization that causes devotion in anyone who comes in contact with them,” Dr. Gregory said. “They are good people, doing a good thing. What I can do for them is small in the big picture, but I appreciate any and all opportunities to help the cause.”
When she’s not busy in her practice, Dr. Gregory fosters her love of reproductive science with a breeding program of her own. Her breed of choice is Otterhound, and she recently whelped her third litter with the assistance of WCC Service Dog Training Instructor Danielle Young. Her family currently consists of four adult Otterhounds, 10 puppies, and one cat.
When asked about her favorite WCC experiences, Dr. Gregory said that holding an agility/trick-training class was one of the best. “It was so much fun to see the puppy parents and dogs working through new and different challenges,” she said. “The handlers and the dogs were equally excited to conquer the equipment.”
“I would characterize my work with Warrior Canine Connection in one word: rewarding,” she concluded. “I love that I get to help the dogs, but also that I can make a difference in Soldiers’ and Veterans’ lives. I’ve been impressed with WCC from the start. It’s such a noble cause, and is extremely organized and well run.” 

News Roundup

The following links will take you to articles and videos about the Warrior Canine Connection program that have appeared recently:

New leash on life: Service dogs, trained by and for wounded Warriors," C.J. Lin, Stars and Stripes

"Love and Honor: Specially Trained, Caring Dogs Serve Those Who Serve," The Virginia-Maryland Dog Magazine

"Menlo Park Non-Profit training service dogs for veterans celebrates two-year anniversary,Azenith Smith, KTVU News

The Old House Comes Down in Germantown!
After a long winter of clearing and acquiring permits, Phase One of the development of the new WCC Healing Quarters in Germantown, MD has begun! Included in Phase One was the necessary demolition of a dilapidated, structurally unsound house, which will be replaced with new construction. In addition, an existing building will soon be transformed into the new Puppy Enrichment Center. With construction slated to begin very soon, it is anticipated that the Germantown site will become WCC's new home later this year. Stay tuned for more details and updates!
Rendering of the new Puppy Enrichment Center
Donate Today!!
Menlo Park Welcome Center Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary
Veterans and their families, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense officials, supporters, and WCC program dogs gathered in Menlo Park on April 25 to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the opening of the John C. Arrillaga Welcome Center. The center, which is on the Menlo Park campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, is home to a variety of non-traditional therapeutic interventions for patients, including art therapy, yoga, and service dog training with WCC program dogs.

Several WCC staff members hosted the celebration, including Executive Director Rick Yount, Chief Medical Officer Bob Koffman, West Coast Program Director Cate Dorr and Service Dog Training Instructor Ellen Fisher. The celebration included a catered barbecue lunch for 300 attendees donated by Project L.O.V., cupcakes donated by Noe Valley Bakery, live music from the John Preston Band, and a presentation about the WCC program.

The theme of the celebration was "It Takes a Village," recognizing that WCC's program success is possible due to the efforts of staff at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, puppy parents, donors, and the many volunteers who provide support in a wide variety of ways, and whose efforts in large part made the size and scope of the celebration possible. Thank you to everyone who participated in the day!
Meet WCC Board Member Earl Strimple
When it comes to the human-animal bond, it is difficult to find anyone with more expertise and passion than WCC Board Vice President Earl Strimple, D.V.M. Dr. Strimple had a successful veterinary practice in Washington, D.C. for over three decades and was named the 2005 Hartz Veterinarian of the Year. But he has really made his mark as a trailblazer in developing programs that foster the human-animal bond.  In 1982, he founded People Animals Love (P.A.L.), a non-profit organization that explores ways that society can benefit from this powerful connection.

Under the leadership of Dr. Strimple, P.A.L. has undertaken a number of initiatives that focus on the healing power of animals. These programs have included grief therapy, prison outreach, PAL Camp for inner city children and youth, and the certification of hundreds of volunteer teams that have visited Washington, D.C. Metro Area hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, and mental health facilities with their pets for more than three decades.

Dr. Strimple was instrumental in opening the doors of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) to P.A.L. animal-assisted therapy visits for children and recovering Service Members. While there, he also recognized the growing need for highly skilled service dogs for Veterans with mobility issues.  
Taking the initiative to help meet this need, he reached out to colleagues in the field and was introduced to Rick Yount, now WCC’s Executive Director, who was seeking sites to pilot the first therapeutic service dog training program for Veterans with psychological and traumatic brain injuries. 
Dr. Strimple then sought the funds to start the program at WRAMC. He convinced officials of a subsidiary of Finmeccanica,, a global aerospace, defense and transportation company, of the value of the program and the company provided the necessary funding to get recovering Soldiers started training service dogs at WRAMC. The program’s positive impact impressed DOD medical officials, resulting in the expansion of program services to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence and the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and Fort Belvoir, VA.      
A champion from the beginning, Dr. Strimple signed on as Vice President of the Board of Directors when WCC was founded in 2011. Over the years he has continued to make important contributions to WCC’s mission to serve wounded Warriors and their family members through his advocacy, research expertise, and stature within the veterinary community.
WCC's Meg Olmert Presents "Your Brain on Dog" During Brain Awareness Week
Warrior Canine Connection was invited once again this year to participate in The National Museum of Science and Health's celebration of "Brain Awareness Week."  On March 16, Director of Research Meg Olmert was joined by WCC Service Dog Training Intern Jake Young with five-month-old Annie and 15-week-old Clarke with his puppy family.
Students from the Washington D.C. metro area arrived by the busload to learn about the latest in neuroscience—including what goes on in their brains as they pet dogs. Museum staff did a wonderful job, and we thank them for hosting us!
Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that utilizes clinically based Canine Connection Therapy to help wounded Warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other.

Warrior Canine Connection is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization. Visit us on the web at

Combined Federal Campaign #94624
Maryland Charity Campaign #4237
Copyright © 2015 Warrior Canine Connection, All rights reserved.

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