The Wounded Paw Project’s story began with a dog named Daisy, a rescued pitbull/lab and a member of Ernesto Hernandez’s family.
Originally as a present to his children, Hernandez got Daisy to help fill in in his absence as he was always on deployments and would be gone for long periods of time. But Daisy was more than just a gift; she was THE gift Hernandez and his family needed.
During his 21 years of service in the Air Force, Hernandez was deployed to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other places known as “hot spots.” In 2008, Hernandez was again deployed to Iraq, but this time, Hernandez said didn’t come back the same. Hernandez returned home later that year and received a Purple Heart for his courage and bravery, but it was obvious that he had left one zone to enter another, this time within himself. Daisy however quite literally saved the day.
“Daisy saw something wrong with me,” Hernandez said. “At the time, the Air Force didn't know what to do with the wounded airmen. And all they did was pump me with opioids. Of course, I turned to alcohol and anger, punching walls, but the reason being, there was just so much pain. I couldn't walk — my back had a piece of shrapnel that nobody really wanted to touch because there was a concern about being paralyzed. And Daisy on her own recognized that I wasn't the same person so she started really coddling me. She would help me get out of bed. She would use tug toys on her own without training.”
Eventually, Hernandez certified Daisy as an emotional support dog, but he wasn’t done there and created the Wounded Paw Project (WPP) ©. The organization gives dogs like Daisy a second chance at life as emotional support dogs. Every year, approximately four million dogs enter animal shelters and every year, approximately 50 percent of pitbulls in shelters are euthanized. While WPP is not a shelter, the organization focuses on savings dogs from kill shelters and also responds to cases that are at higher risk of euthanization such as bait, tortured, and abused dogs. Then, through proper training and care, WPP stands by its motto, “Saving a Paw, to Save a Life ©”, by pairing dogs with people such as veterans, service members, and children*.
*WPP is a three-tiered organization with a primary mission of “Being the for the Voiceless™” with one of its core competencies of Wagployment® giving rescues and shelters a second tail in life. For more information, please visit www.WPP.dog
Photo credits: Courtesy of Wounded Paw Project's Instagram, Ernesto Hernandez