Rusty’s Legacy joins forces with K9s for Warriors

U.S. Army veteran Rocco Elia kneels beside his dog Sherman, one of the first dogs from Rusty’s Legacy to graduate the K9s for Warriors program.

A local animal rescue is making sure that veterans who have served their country after 9/11 have companions to get them through the ups and downs in life.

Rusty’s Legacy recently donated five dogs to the K9s for Warriors project, which provides service canines to warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress disability, traumatic brain injury and/or sexual trauma as a result of military service.

Rusty’s Legacy Founder Jeri Arledge said that she found out about the program during a chance meeting at pet adoptions in Asheville.

“We were at the Petsmart adoptathon in Asheville and someone from another rescue came up and saw Sherman,” said Arledge. “They saw him and they said ‘oh my gosh, what a great dog for the K9s for Warriors program.’ She actually took the dog to show her colleagues and sent pictures of him to the ladies who I work with in Tryon, whose sole mission is to find rescue dogs to donate to provide to the program.”

After talking with program coordinators, Arledge decided to donate Sherman and inquired about donating other, fully-vetted dogs to the nonprofit.

Dogs for the program have shoulders at least 24 inches wide, be under 2 years old, weigh at least 70 pounds, be treat motivated and have a certain temperament required of service dogs.

After talking to the program representatives, individuals from K9s from Warriors program visited the rescue to see if any of Rusty’s pets would fit in with their clients.

“The three ladies from the service dog project came to the rescue and saw our setup and met a couple of other dogs and evaluated them and ended up taking them,” said Arledge. “Since then, it’s just been a wonderful partnership. It’s such a great way for us to thank the veterans.”

For Arledge, collaborating with the program has been a blessing, since her husband is a veteran who served 22 years in the military.

“The needs of our returning service men are never far from our minds,” said Arledge. “We’re just delighted that we can donate them to such a great program. Really large dogs are very often, very difficult to place, so it’s fabulous that they need these big dogs, because a lot of their warriors are these great big young men and women.”

Each dog that was donated to the program was fixed and fully-vetted, meaning that the rescue actually took on the cost of the animals they donated.

“We do this as a way to give back to those that have given so much,” said Arledge. “I hope to continue to work with them until there is no longer a need.”

Since joining with the program, Rusty’s Legacy has donated five dogs to K9s for Warriors. They’ve also received two photos of the veterans who have benefitted from the program with their pooches.

More information about K9s for Warriors can be found at K9sforwarriors.org.

Individuals who would like to donate to Rusty’s Legacy to help with the cost associated with vetting pets for this program can call, 460-3190.

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