Missouri Veterans Home Welcomes New Resident

7 years 1 month 3 days ago Monday, November 08 2010 Nov 8, 2010 Monday, November 08, 2010 6:33:15 PM CST November 08, 2010 in News
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ST. JAMES- The Missouri Veterans Home welcomed a new resident, a Labrador and Golden Retriever mix named Jackson. Veteran Gary Railing has trained dogs for seven years. He started a new non-profit organization called "A Dog for a Veteran" which puts companion dogs with fellow veterans.

"We owe it to them," Railing said. "It's a way of saying thanks."

The Missouri Veterans Home is the first recipient of one of Railing's dogs. Railing got him from an animal shelter in Illinois about six months ago. Now, Jackson responds to more than 50 behavioral commands. Railing said he didn't get the idea to donate Jackson to the home until he recently drove past it.

"I just happened to be driving by on Interstate 44 and saw the sign for the veterans home and thought, 'you know, I think he just might make a pretty good companion dog,'" Railing said.

He contacted the administration about his idea. Home administrators said once they met Jackson, they instantly connected with him.

Missouri Veterans Home officials say certain residents already come in contact with dogs a few days a week for therapy sessions. But Jackson will be a permanent resident along with the 150 veterans who live at the home. Many residents say they look forward to the sense of home their new companion dog will bring.

"I'm very tickled about Jackson coming here, I really am," resident and veteran Michael Kozemczak said. "I think it will be an outstanding thing for the residents to have a pet here."

"Even if you've got a bad day, a dog will come up and start looking at you and giving you puppy eyes and stuff like that, and you start petting him. It kind of brings you up too," resident and veteran Richard Sullentrup said.

Sullentrup said it will also be a challenge to learn all the commands to properly communicate with Jackson.

"It's going to be basically up to us. We're going to have to re-learn ourselves, re-train ourselves more or less," Sullentrup said.

Although Railing is happy with his contribution to the Veterans Home, he said he's sad to say goodbye to Jackson.
The Missouri Veterans Home will host a welcome ceremony for Jackson on Wednesday. After that, he will be a full-time resident. To visit Railing's website for "A Dog for a Veteran," click here.

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