Service dogs play a key role in many Veterans lives, but not everyone realizes the extensive training the service animals must undergo. While most of the training is focused around commands and behavior, socialization is also vital. Service dogs need to remain focused on their Veteran, ignoring the world around them. Thankfully, this kind of “training” is the best kind for everyone else because it involves petting, holding, and playing with puppies!
About once a month, the Veterans Experience Office has introduced the VA headquarters staff in Washington, D.C. to the non-profit organization, Warrior Canine Connection, and their lovable puppies. For two hours each event, VA employees are able to help these puppies go through their socialization training! The result is an improved VA employee experience (because who doesn’t love playing with puppies?), but also a more prepared group of pups to provide care to Veterans.
Jenine Melton, an Army Veteran, is one of the many VA employees who looks forward to “puppy day” at work.
“I am happy to be a part of this,” she said, “So I can help support this cause. As soon as I hear the service puppies are in the building, I run down to visit. Not all Veterans have a family to support them during hard times and to have an amazing, lovable dog to assist on their journey means a tremendous amount to Veterans.”
In 2007, Melton attended the Captain’s Course where she graduated as a distinguished honor graduate. Tragically, a year later Melton’s brother, Capt. Jesse Melton III USMC, was killed in action while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Parawan Providence of Afghanistan. Her brother was 29 years old.
In 2009, Melton was honorably discharged from the United States Army. After the military, Jenine became a civil servant and later served 18 months in Afghanistan with the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. Melton deployed to finish the tour her brother was unable to complete. Jenine now works at VA’s Office of Human Resources Management.
With a desire to continue her late brother’s legacy of service, Melton has dedicated her life to honoring our nation’s active duty service members, Veterans, and fallen heroes. When the staff of Warrior Canine Connection met Jenine at the VA, they recognized her service by naming one of their new puppies after her.
“As a Gold Star sibling and Iraqi War Veteran, I am humbled because I understand the service, sacrifice and commitment that our nation’s heroes make and their families make. To know that this special dog will help continue my legacy of service to a deserving Veteran means so much to me. I am so excited to see what puppy Jenine will do in the future, thank you!” said Melton after hearing about the naming of the Warrior Canine Connection puppy in her honor.
Warrior Canine Connection is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization that uses a mission-based trauma recovery model to help recovering Warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other through training or receiving service dogs.
This story is part of the series, Who is VA? Stories of those who have served, and continue serve.