Hero Pups, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization, places therapy dogs with veterans, firefighters, police officers and EMS providers.
STRATHAM, NH – a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization in New Hampshire, places therapy dogs with veterans, firefighters, police officers and EMS providers.
Laura Barker (not a typo), is the founder and president of Hero Pups, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization in New Hampshire, places therapy dogs with veterans, firefighters, police officers and EMS providers.
The organization has 30 active volunteers and they aim to keep their services roughly within a 100-mile radius of Stratham, New Hampshire.
The idea for the organization occurred in 2011 after Barker’s son was shot while in Afghanistan.
“When he came back, he was going through all these surgeries and you get to know all these other service members with combat injuries,” she said. “One day, someone walked into the hospital with a therapy dog and I watched how some of these guys reacted.”
It was an easy decision for Barker, who has a background in rescuing dogs.
“It was that perfect marriage. It was something I was passionate about – saving dogs – and then I saw these service members and how they reacted,” she said.
Hero Pups started placing dogs in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Helping Veterans and First Responders
During a ride along with a police officer, Barker realized that veterans and the nation’s first responders were facing similar issues.
“I didn’t want to just limit this to our veterans,” she said. “How they get to where they are might be a different path, but if they’re getting to that same space of anxiety, stress and depression then we have to include them.”
Barker didn’t have to think twice about adding first responders into the mix.
“Why not? It makes so much sense. They’re our heroes and we rely on them every single day. When they get off shift and go home, we don’t always know all the struggles they’re dealing with. There are a lot of difficult things that come with the job.”
By rescuing and saving a dog, Barker said they’re also saving and helping a hero.
“It’s just the perfect combination,” she said.
Right now, about 50 percent of the dogs that Hero Pups places go to first responders.
“There’s actually a lot of overlap,” Barker explained. “There’s a firefighter, who’s also a veteran, and some of his challenges may have started in the military, but they carried over to his firefighting job.”
Hero pups mainly trains rescues – with the rare dog from a breeder. The screening and profiling process is extensive, with intense aptitude testing. Barker already knows what she’s looking for in a dog and which dogs will make good candidates for her heroes.
“It’s not a guarantee, but we work with as many as we can and place as many as we can,” she said. “We always have a flunky or one that just doesn’t want to go into service work and is meant to be a pet. And that’s fine – it will be adopted by a family.”
Barker said she has a list of people – almost as long as those waiting for a fully trained therapy dog – that are just waiting for a flunky.
“We still saved the dog and somebody is going to get a great pet. And that’s awesome.”
And while some are thrilled with receiving a flunky, Barker’s main focus is training as many dogs as possible for every hero in need.
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