MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE -- Many are familiar with the saying, “dog is man’s best friend,” and for two service members, their passion for helping abused, neglected and abandoned dogs has forged a lifelong partnership.
Staff Sgt. Brad Vande Hei, a Marine with Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Army Pvt. Sylvia Kasch, a military police officer. The North Carolina National Guard, spend many hours training and rehabilitating shelter dogs.
They train the dogs in the basics of obedience, tracking and trailing, trick training, service tasks to make the canines more adoptable.
Vande Hei, the founder of Unleashed Dog Training and a certified dog trainer with more than 17 years of experience, has had a lifelong passion for dogs in need.
“Since the age of 11, I’ve had a love for training animals,” said Vande Hei. “Seeing the impact my parents had as volunteer dog raisers pushed me to train service dogs for the military community.”
Because of their passion for dogs, both service members have taken a personal mission to get as many canines in loving homes.
After rescuing a dog used in a fighting ring, Kasch contacted Vande Hei for his experience with animal training, which ultimately led to the partnership between the Marine and soldier.
“Years ago, I came across a pit bull who was used for dog-fighting,” said Kasch. “A deploying service member saved the dog. That person never returned from combat, and the dog’s time was coming to a close (at the shelter). I decided to take him in until someone else gave him a home.”
She realized she needed an experienced professional to get the dog physically and emotionally stable.
“She came to me looking for help,” said Vande Hei. “I helped her with everything she needed free of charge, and we’ve been working together ever since. She’s a hard worker. You can tell this is her passion.”
The dog Kasch rescued has since been adopted. Witnessing the journey of the dog’s recovery from abuse to adoption inspired Kasch to help as many dogs as possible, leading to the creation of her rescue group. It also guided her to help Vande Hei with his mission of training dogs from area shelters.
With the training provided by these service members, more than 40 canines have been adopted as service dogs by service members in the local community.
For more information, visit www.unleasheddogtraining.org and www.jadedpaws.webs.com.
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