NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - When LInda DosSantos decided to try for a Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Scouting, she knew immediately what her theme would be: animals. Then she saw a TV announcement about Pets for Vets and her project was born.
DosSantos, 17, is going into her senior year at North Salem High. For a long time she thought she would like to be a veterinarian, but when her dog Buddy died she realized that the emotional responsibility of the profession would be too consuming for her. So she plans to study psychology in college and work in military rehabilitation.
Pets for Vets is a program that provides therapy dogs to war veterans who have suffered from physical and emotional injuries that interfere with their transition into civilian life. The organization locates shelter dogs, rehabilitates and trains them, and matches them to needy vets. The dogs may have to deal with crutches, wheel-chairs or problems less visible like post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said DosSantos. “The dogs get a second chance and the veterans get a friend.”
DosSantos explained that she is “helping to raise awareness about the need and the program by reaching out to community centers and getting the word out through libraries and flyers.” With the help of a younger scout, she is assembling supplies to fill about 100 Dog Care Emergency Packages, to be distributed to vets.
Each package will include a Rescue Alert sticker, disposable gloves, bandages, gauze, towelettes, cotton balls, ointments for cuts and bruises, dog biscuits, dry food and water. It will all be packed into a plastic storage box or bag.
Still in the process of gathering supplies, DosSantos is asking for contributions of specific items or donations of funds to be put toward supplies.
When complete, the packages will be delivered to Clarissa Black, an animal trainer and founder of Pets for Vets. The organization will then distribute them.
DosSantos hopes to have her project complete by the end of September. In November she will make a presentation to the Girl Scout Council and hopefully win her Gold Award.
Winners of the Gold Award are sometimes eligible for special scholarships and are always given an immediate promotion of one rank in the U. S. Military.