Giant Service Dog to Receive Mobility Surgery
Once-Rescued Dog Now Helps Rescue Homeless Veterans
CAMARILLO, CA September 13, 2019 – A service dog with a specialized skill that can help save the life of a homeless military veteran will soon be getting a surgery, thanks to Gold Coast Veterans Foundation (GCVF). The 165 pound white Samoyed mix named Leo ventures into homeless encampments throughout Ventura County. The dog is able to make an immediate connection with homeless military veterans, who are by far the most resistant to being contacted and engaged into social services.
Rafael Stoneman, Leo’s companion, is the director of GCVF’s Mobile Veteran Outreach program that provides care and services to the most difficult to help. Stoneman, once a homeless veteran himself, has a degree in psychology and addiction counseling. “Leo is our secret weapon in the battle to end veteran homelessness in Ventura County,” says Stoneman; “…homeless veterans immediately clam up or disappear when law enforcement, county mental health, or social service workers try to engage them. But Leo breaks down all the barriers and gets the conversation started faster than any person could… they immediately sense they can trust him.”
On Thursday evening a group of influential foundation leaders and government agency reps came together to formally recognize how important Leo and Rafael’s work is. GCVF Chairman Dennis Murphy recounted how their efforts recently saved the lives of veterans and their families, including one newborn infant. A recognition plaque from Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin was presented.
But the enormous animal suffers from hip dysplasia, which makes it difficult for him to walk the streets and alleyways where he works his magic, and he’ll need surgery. The highlight of the evening was a check from the GCVF board for $5,000 to cover the cost of the surgery. Stoneman was moved to tears, both on behalf of his partner and the veterans they bring back from the abyss of homelessness; “When we make a connection and have a real talk, the veterans become interested in their VA healthcare, PTSD counseling, getting sober, and coming back to the world.” Said Stoneman; “Leo’s a big part of saving these veterans’ lives.”
About Mobile Veteran Outreach – Mobile Veteran Outreach brings comprehensive help, services, and support directly to homeless military veterans living on the streets, in vehicles, or homebound with limited mobility. Services begin with direct intervention to address and resolve homelessness, followed by 1-on-1 personalized help with navigating and expediting VA, CalVet, VASH and other benefits, licensed financial coaching, emotional wellness & peer counseling, veteran-focused job training & employment resources. All services are free of charge. More info at http://www.veteransconnection.vet or by calling (805) 482-6550