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“Zelda has been a life-changing addition to me and my family in the past three years,” retired Air Force veteran Joe Mulgado told members of Marco Islands DAR chapter at its Feb. 13 meeting at the Island Country Club.

Mulgado and Kathy Gumph, of Golden PAWS Assistance Dogs explained the intense training the golden retriever puppies go through to be able to become service dogs for veterans and children with disabilities, at no cost to the recipient. Donations alone pay the $40,000 cost of training the service dog.

Training for the dog starts at six weeks old and continues for about two and half years, when they are paired with their persons. PAWS provide lifetime veterinary care, grooming and continued training.

Mulgado recounted the unique physical and emotional challenges he faced after deployments in Africa, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq. He said PAWS was a lifeline for him to reintegrate into civilian life.

Kathy Gumph referred the members to the Golden Paws website that explains why golden retrievers are selected as service dogs, and it’s not because they are such a beautiful breed.

 “By nature, Golden Retrievers are intelligent and also create strong working bonds with their owners,” she said. “These inherent traits, along with their desire to please, make Goldens the best tool for Golden PAWS Assistance Dogs and its recipients.

 “Our goal is to ensure a healthy and productive life for the partnership.”

Golden Paws points out that its costs are 50 percent below the national average; industry estimates reach as high as $80,000 elsewhere for mobility assistance dogs. All the work of Golden PAWS Assistance Dogs is funded by private donors, corporate sponsors and family foundations.

The DAR members gave Zelda plenty of attention during the meeting and luncheon and gave a donation to the organization.

If you want to find out more about Golden Paws Assistance Dogs, visit https://www.goldenpaws.org/.

DAR has 180,000 members in 3,000 chapters worldwide.  Members are women 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot in the American Revolution.

Monthly luncheon meetings are at 10:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

Members also meet casually between meetings, just for friendship and fun. Potential members and visitors from other chapters are welcome. Contact Pat Hancock pathancock21@yahoo.com, 319-530-5006.

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