We are happy to announce that Hopper has completed her first round of training and is doing spectacularly! Our friends from Healing Paws for Warriors sent us the following story from PAWS, telling the incredible rescue journey of formerly "Ava", now Hopper. From the Panhandle Welfare Society to Hopper's Veteran Companion:
"My name is Manda Moore and I work for the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Fort Walton Beach. I was stopping by right before close on a Friday to drop off the monies from our golf tournament when in walked a young man carrying a beautiful dog like a baby. I instantly was in love with her, I have owned a Belgium Malinois and loved Dutchies for as long as I can remember. I quickly took over for our new receptionist that was excited about a “brindle German Shepherd”. This young man a self-professed hippie started telling me the story on how Ava came to him. He and his girlfriend were on Craigslist a few weeks prior when they came across a listing for Ava where the people stated they would kill her if someone didn’t pay them $100 that night for her. The couple instantly called the number and were given coordinates to an isolated area in the woods of Milton.
When they arrived, no one was there so they called the number again, were told to drive further into the woods to an abandoned gas station and they would meet them there. They did just that, paid a $100 and the dog was handed over. They really loved her but after a few weeks realized they were in over their head with this type of dog. He told me her name was Ava as that’s what the “meth heads” told him. I reached for the microchip scanner and the young man said, “Oh she won’t have a microchip.” Well, she did, and she was registered to an older man that owns a farm in Niceville. He was quite surprised to hear from me. Her name was Ava since she was 8 weeks old. Her original owner Mr. Baker got her as a puppy, and she lived with him for most of her life. He told me he bought her from famous Wounded Warrior MSG Chris Corbin and that her sire was his military bomb detection dog.
I must admit I was not sold yet on that being her story however I soon would verify with Chris. Mr. Baker stated he realized he wasn’t giving her all the attention she needed, and she had developed her own “jobs”, one being getting into a neighbor’s house and stealing their shoes. A farm hand of his really loved her so Mr. Baker gave her to him, but 3 months later when he called to check on her the farm hand claimed he sold her to someone out of Atlanta. I do not believe she was ever sold nor left the area. I asked if Mr. Baker wanted her back, after knowing I was going to work my hardest to find the perfect job for her, he agreed to owner surrender so her hold time was only 24 hours before she could leave our facilities instead of 10 days. He also told me if ever she was to be in danger of euthanasia, he would take her back. He loved her. I promised Mr. Baker I would update him, and he entrusted me with her and that’s where my story begins.
She stayed in the shelter at PAWS for a few days before I noticed she was becoming kennel crazy. I had been going there every day, taking her out for runs and play but even with that she was jumping nonstop in the run and foaming at the mouth from stress. I knew I had to get her out immediately, so I did something I have never done with an adult dog at the shelter, I brought her home. I am so thankful I did.
About this beautiful very special dog: -Once she bonds to you, she will be loyal, affectionate and velcro to your side, be patient. - She loves children, she jumped in front of my 7-year-old son at a PAWS event when a pit bull charged at him snapping and growling. Before I could even react, she had already placed herself in harms way to protect my child. She quickly told the other dog verbally to back down. She did not advance, just stood between like the protector she is. Seconds after she was wagging her tail and giving my son kisses on his hand. - She loves other dogs - She is brilliant, don’t ever underestimate her or she will take advantage. - She can be stubborn at first until she knows you are her alpha, but it is pure magic once she does. She will. - She is in fact half Dutch Shepherd and half Belgium Malinois. Her sire is MSG Chris Corbin’s military bomb detection dog Ax and her mother Bica is the granddaughter of Triple Grand Champion Dutch Shepherd Django. (both parents are owned by Chris) Basically she has amazing lineage and it shows. - She is crate trained if you even need to do so. - She waits to be invited on furniture, outside, inside, the car etc. I am sure she will learn so much more through Karen and you. - Her eyes tell her story of wanting love and the long trip to where she is now - Most importantly she deserves you and her happy ending. My family fostered her for months, she played with my two Australian Shepherds (Gunner and Axl) and adored my 7-year-old son Jagger. I vowed to get her a job and if I couldn’t I promised her I would give her a job in our pack. First, I verified her lineage and reached out to Wounded Warrior MSG Chris Corbin, he immediately said, “that is Ava!” and we talked back and forth. Her lineage was correct, and Chris mentioned that if anything fell through that he would be happy to get her back, he loved her. He was very happy to hear of my previous experiences with working breeds and entrusted me with her. Next, I started searching for her a job! She passed everything for the National Dog Search and Rescue Foundation, however I learned of her accident as a puppy and disclosed knowing she would be disqualified from their program. The fact she passed the rigorous test tells you just how special your girl is. Her accident and injury have not stopped nor slowed her down in the least!
Back at square one, I felt the qualities she possessed would allow her to be a service dog, so I reached out locally to Karen with Healing Paws For Warriors. She met us at PAWS and of course she passed her assessment to be a service dog! I was given a date that she would officially become Healing Paws For Warriors to train and no longer under my care. I was ecstatic for her future but naturally sad she would no longer be part of our pack. I am very thankful to Healing Paws For Warriors for helping me fulfill my promise and giving her the most important job. Luckily, I was able to have her as a foster for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This really helped my family adjust, especially Jagger.
So just know although she came from a shelter, this amazing creature is very much loved and comes with lots of well wishes for you and her to bond for life. Ava now Hopper has a purpose, that purpose is to assist you, be your support and your constant. I know she will do amazingly. Thank you for loving her. Quick note from Jagger, age 7 - She’s a very special dog, smart and loving. I love her very much but am happy now she has a real job. "