Army Veteran Embarks on 4,000 Mile Journey to Fundraise for Service Dogs


Credit: Doggie Paddle

This Saturday, Army veteran Jimmy Thomas will begin his 4,000 mile journey kayaking from upstate New York to Key West, Florida and biking back to fundraise for veteran service dogs in an initiative he calls Doggie Paddle for Veterans. According to WRGB, as a veteran who has suffered from bipolar disorder and stress-induced seizures, Thomas knows firsthand the power dogs have to heal and help veterans through their special companionship and service. 

Thomas had a special bond with his golden retriever service dog, Boots, who was able to recognize when Thomas was going to have a seizure before it started. Knowing how meaningful his service dog was to him, Thomas is undertaking a dedicated effort to help other veterans find service dogs that will also make a difference in their lives. Thomas shared that “if I could see how much it helped me in that short period of time, in a long period of time it has to help veterans that have much worse disabilities than I do.”

Through his 4,000 mile journey, Thomas hopes to raise six figures in donations in partnership with the Glenville Rotary. According to WRGB, a service dog can cost up to $50,000, making it hard for veterans in need to get one as many insurance carriers do not offer coverage. On his website, doggiepaddle.org, Thomas describes the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs, noting that service dogs are more than companions as they are trained to assist one person specifically with a disability in addition to other unique characteristics. 

Thomas’s 4,000 mile journey is bringing awareness to this great need of many of our nation’s heroes. Veterans who are suffering from a disability can find the help they need through service dogs, but with the high cost leaving it out of reach for many, Thomas’s fundraiser is an effort that he hopes will make a difference. As more people learn about the benefits of service dogs for veterans, and how service dogs differ from therapy dogs, more of our nation’s heroes will be able to find the support they need. 


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