This is little Miss Perky, a beautiful Labrador Retriever puppy I raised for the Guide Dog Foundation (GDF.) She was about four months old in October 2008, when this photo was taken. One day, that same October, we happened to be at the GDF for a class. After class we bumped into Melissa, one of the wonderful VetDog trainers at GDF. She was in the middle of a campus tour for six special veterans. Special because they were the first class of disabled veterans to receive service dogs at the Foundation, under the VetDogs program. Melissa asked if I would mind waiting so that the veterans could meet my sweet pup, Perky. Mind? I’d be honored.
It was a pleasure to meet the veterans. What wonderful young men! Despite their disabilities they were cheerful and in good spirits. As a mother with children in the same age range as these young men, I couldn’t help but be grateful for their sacrifices – and sad for what they had to go through. When we were done chatting, I thanked them for their service to our country and shook their hands. To a man, they said “No need to thank us ma’am. It’s our job. We love what we do.” I walked away in tears and decided that I had to do something to help our courageous veterans.
I decided to create a fundraiser necklace to benefit VetDogs. I wanted to make a charm necklace – on ball chain, of course, to echo military personal ID (“dog”) tags. I selected a 24 inch necklace, same as the military; I chose sterling silver – NOT the same as the military! I wanted the main charm to appeal to all dog lovers, not just those who support VetDogs. I thought of all the dogs that had passed through my life and the phrase “A dog leaves a paw print on your heart” came to mind. So true! I also wanted Perky to participate; if not for her, I would not have met the veterans. What a trooper! Perky was very patient until I finally got the great print that graces the charm.
I also wanted to include a bead on the necklace. Researching gem meanings, lapis lazuli – the stone of friendship – jumped out at me. Lapis is a beautiful deep blue – perfect symbol of the “true blue friendship” and loyalty of a dog.
Now for something to represent our veterans. This was a tough nut to crack. I researched the five Armed Services, looking for a common motif. No luck. Most of the Services had a star – but not all of them. I spent a lot of time on this and finally decided to ask for help.
I called a local recruiting office and spoke to Staff Sgt. Bush, of the Army. We brainstormed – still nothing. Then SSgt. Bush had a brilliant idea – a five pointed star, each point representing one of the Armed Services. As a plus, he said that ALL the Armed Services used stars in the upper rank insignia. A sterling silver star to represent our veterans – the last bit of the design puzzle was in place.
Here is the final necklace design. I hope you like it. Each one sells for $65 and $20 of each sale is donated to VetDogs. I am thankful to have the opportunity to help our veterans in this small way and I appreciate the enthusiastic support of my customers! My goal is to sell enough Perky’s Paw Necklaces to sponsor a future service dog puppy – $6000. That’s only 300 necklaces – I’ll start making them, you go tell your friends! Of course, you can also make a direct donation to VetDogs, a few dollars, whatever you can spare – tell them Miss Perky sent you!