Last month I did a Workshop on dog Body Language, Behavior and Problem Solving at CATCH – Canine Training Academy. The campus is located at the St. Huberts Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ. Let me tell you, St. Huberts is the best animal shelter I have even seen in my life. It is so clean, so organized and the animals are so well cared for! A model shelter if you ask me! Maybe I do another blog post just on that, because today I have a different story to tell you.

At the workshop I sat next to a young mom of three adorable children, her name is Sarah. Sarah and her family drove all the way from Cleveland, OH to take this Workshop. Sarah is army veteran who stationed in Afghanistan for a few years. She has given her time and her best to keep all of us and our country a safe place to live.  We thank and salute her for that!!!

After coming back home, like many other american soldiers, she starting suffering from PTSD  – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To easier her burden and  help her to deal better with PTSD she was given a specially trained service dog.  A service dog can provide a sense of security, calming effects,  that make a positive difference in the life of the veterans and any other person suffering from PTSD. Sarah named her dog Zaria Arina which in Russian means “Sunshine Peace”.

Zaria is a Russian Wolfhound, a breed not very common to find around here. Well, at least I have never seen one until I met Zaria.  So in class, we were getting to know one other a little bit better and Sarah was telling me her story, her battle with PSTD,  and her how her beloved service dog Zaria, a Russian wolfhound has make such a positive impact and difference in her life. At one point  I  had interrupt and ask,  “What is she again?” She repeat, “a Russian Wolfhound.” I looked puzzled for a moment and finally asked see a picture of the dog. I had no idea how a Russian Wolfhound looked like. Never heard of the breed! So Sarah goes to her phone and take a few minutes looking into her picture gallery, then said something like “Huh, I don’t think I have any pictures of her”.  She took her time and  looked a for a moment longer,   and finally found a picture of Zaria to show me. It was a dark phone photo and I couldn’t barely see the how the dog looked like. I was disappointed! I had to search on google to see how a Russian Wolfhound dog looked like.

Well, being a professional pet photographer, at the moment I thought wow I need to take pictures of this dog. Zaria was staying the Dog DayCare at St. Huberts during the day while Sarah was attending the Workshop.  So I told Sarah, tomorrow I am bringing my camera and we are going to take beautiful pictures of Zaria after our class. I needed to do this for a few reasons, but the most important one was; I was very grateful to her for serving, something I couldn’t ever do, so I wanted to pay it forward somehow and that was creating beautiful portraits of her beloved service dog so she could cherish Zaria forever. The next time someone asked to see a picture of the dog who changed her life, she would have these beautiful portraits to show them!

Sarah dog’s Zaria has changed her life. Sarah has become a dog trainer because of her, and  she has her own dog training business in Cleveland, OH. She seen how Zaria change the life for better and she wanted to be able to do the same for others. So besides having her own private clients, Sarah trains dogs to become a service dog,  and once they are ready she matches the dog with a veteran who suffers from PTSD. It is a very extensive and intense training that could cost thousands of dollars, but she gives the dog to another veteran at no cost at all. That is her way of paying it forward!

“Sometimes you can’t pay it back, so you have to pay it forward” quote by Randy Pausch

I believe we are here to help one another and make a difference in this world. It doesn’t matter how big or small is your act of kindness, because it always can make a difference.

Now meet Zoria, the Russian Wolfhound dog, who made a difference in someone’s life!

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Thanks for reading it! Until next time…

All you need is LOVE, and a dog

Alessandra Sawick

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