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America Supports You: Business Goes to the Dogs

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

VIENNA, Va., Nov. 21, 2005 – Supporting the military canine corps serving in the global terror war is for the dogs as far as one Virginia business is concerned.

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Happy Tails Dog Spa and its charitable organization, K-9 Support Inc., have raised nearly $15,000 to help provide America's military working dogs with toys, treats and other needed items. Joye Novellino, the spa's general manager, left, and Jason Cannan, store manager, sit among some of their charges who, as part of the Happy Tails family, support their canine friends overseas. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The furry patrons of Happy Tails Dog Spa in this Washington suburb and their owners have pitched in to help support America's military working dogs with needed items. The pooches worked up a good lather to raise funds during a dog wash last summer.

And their good efforts continue this holiday season with the spa's planned monetary donation to the U.S. War Dogs Association, which will send holiday gift baskets to both servicemembers and their best friends.

Happy Tails owner Amy Nichols started thinking about ideas when she could find little American support for military pooches serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Joye Novellino, the spa's general manager, said. That didn't seem fair, she said.

"The dogs are like soldiers. They're attached to the Marine units and the Army units," Novellino said. "They're over there sniffing out insurgents, fighting in the war, sniffing out bombs, and they're not always thought about."

Response to an in-store donation box -- hundreds of pounds of dog biscuits, 1,300 tubes of lip balm to keep the dogs' noses moist, toys and other items -- signaled a need to reach out to the local community, she said. That outreach came in the form of the summer dog wash, with a suggested donation of $10 a dog. About 155 dogs were washed in a five-hour period, Novellino said.

"We exceeded our goals tremendously," she noted. "We initially thought it would be nice to raise $2,000. By the end of the day it was $8,500. People were handing in $100s. We had a couple of people bring us $2,000 checks."

The money was used to purchase cooling mats to keep the working dogs comfortable during the hot summer months in Iraq and Afghanistan, Novellino said. They also supplied K-9 units with "Doggles" -- goggles with shatterproof, anti-fogging lenses and a wraparound design that block ultraviolet light, wind and debris.

Word spread after the first shipment was sent to Army Master Sgt. Chris Burgess, operations chief, 2nd Military Police Battalion, at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

Then Army Maj. Jennifer Damco in Afghanistan saw a news release about that delivery and contacted the spa with a different request.

"She had seven dogs, and they were sharing one chew toy because they had gone through (the rest)," Novellino said. "We boxed her up something that day and sent it out to her immediately."

The support hasn't stopped either, she said, adding that the total donations to date are about $15,000. K-9 Support Inc., the charitable organization formed by Nichols under the spa's auspices shortly after the dog wash, just sent another 100 chill mats and 100 Doggles to the deployed dogs.

K-9 Support is in the process of obtaining nonprofit status. Meanwhile, the organization will regularly send requested items to military dogs in 12 K-9 units it has adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan, Novellino said.

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Related Sites:
America Supports You
U.S. War Dogs Association

Click photo for screen-resolution imageHappy Tails Dog Spa is collecting donations for America's military working dogs in its lobby. Donations of toys, treats and other needed items, for both dogs and handlers, have been steady, say the spa's managers. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJason Cannan, Happy Tails Dog Spa store manager, talks with Jackson, a Happy Tails Dog Spa daycare client. Happy Tails and K-9 Support Inc., the spa's charitable organization, have raised nearly $15,000 to help provide military working dogs with toys, treats and other needed items. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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