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From Homeless to Hero Part II

By PetcoFoundation on Oct. 20, 2016

HelpingHeroes_Finn2.jpgEarlier this  week, we introduced you to Truman, Skye and Dell, former shelter pets transformed into Helping Heroes, dedicating their lives to improving the quality of life for many and helping others.

We continue the series by introducing you to three more extraordinary heroes, all with a special job of their own, working tirelessly to make the world a better place for their handler and society.

Nikita the K9 Officer
From the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to a shelter in Massachusetts, Nikita had already come a long way when her small stature, playful personality and keen nose attracted the attention of the Worcester County Deputy Sheriff’s Office in West Boylston, MA.

Nikita may have been overlooked by potential adopters, but he was exactly what the sheriff’s office needed, as they were seeking an adaptable dog who could search very tight places like vehicles and jail cells. Just as they suspected, Nikita excelled in the narcotics detection academy and is now one of the most versatile K9s in their department.
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He’s also one of the only narcotic dogs around who can detect abused opioid-based prescription narcotics, an invaluable skill in a corrections environment. “I consider Nikita a hero because he has come such a long way to provide exceptional service to the citizens of Worcester County,” said Captain Thomas Chabot, Nikita’s handler. “Nikita is doing his part to save lives that would otherwise be ruined by the terrible effects of abusing narcotics.”

Siri, Hearing Dog
Siri’s life changed when Service Dogs, Inc. found her in an animal shelter outside of Houston, TX, and immediately recognized her potential.

After an evaluation to see if she would be a good fit for their program, Service Dogs, Inc. knew Siri would make an exceptional hearing dog when she displayed an intense interest in sound. Service Dogs, Inc, immediately put Siri’s big ears to work, training her as a Hearing Dog for individuals with hearing impairments.

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Matched with Kaitlyn McCormick, Siri is trained to alert Kaitlyn of the things she cannot hear. Whether it’s a phone ringing or other more serious sound, like a smoke detector or sirens from an emergency vehicle, Kaitlyn is more aware of her surroundings thanks to Siri’s help. “Siri is a hero because she has given me my freedom back,” said Kaitlyn. “Because of her, I’m able to live alone. I like to jog and could never do it before without being afraid. Now, I am able to jog outside without fear.”

Finn the Therapy Dog
Before joining the UCLA Health People-Animal Connection (PAC) program, which brings therapy animals and hospital patients together, Finn, a Great Pyrenees/lab mix, was a stray. From the start, Finn’s adopter knew he’d be a great therapy dog because of his calm and sweet demeanor.

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After passing the Delta Society’s (now Pet Partners) evaluation and registering as an animal-assisted therapy team, the duo started volunteering at the UCLA Health Ronald Reagan Medical Center. They have continued to do so for over four years, visiting patients and staff, and bringing smiles to the hospital’s geriatric and pediatric psychiatric wings.

“Through the process of serving others, Finn has improved his own life—it’s full circle,” said Erin Rice, Finn’s owner. “Inspired by the impact that Finn had on the patients he visited, I made a career change and am serving as Director of the UCLA Health People-Animal Connection (PAC) program while my husband now volunteers with Finn.”

Each October, the Petco Foundation partners with Natural Balance to support the lifesaving work of service, therapy and other working pets during our Helping Heroes campaign. We’re most proud to partner with organizations that save homeless animals and give them a job to help others.

From now until Oct. 23, your donation will help the Petco Foundation continue supporting the incredible work of our Helping Heroes across the country. Honor a hero today.

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