PAY IT FORWARD: Hero Dogs trains service animals for veterans, hospitals

- An organization in Montgomery County is helping to train service dogs for veterans and patients in-need at medical facilities.

Hero Dogs helps train service dogs that eventually go on to assist veterans returning from service and patients at local hospitals.

A hospital can be a scary place, especially for children, which is why Inova Loudoun Hospital has Jeremiah, which is a Hero Dog trained specifically to work in healthcare facilities. Jeremiah is able to pop bubbles and is trained to demonstrate to children that taking medicine is OK.

Most importantly, his owner, Dr. Jill McCabe, said he helps ease the stress a medical emergency can bring.

"It's very difficult, traumatic, challenging at times so anything we can do to make it more comfortable, to comfort their family, we like to do," McCabe said.

She said, in some cases, a warm wag of a tail or friendly paw will make a world of difference.

"Having them in a healthcare environment will decrease the need for pain medication, sedation medication so working with child-life specialists has been proven to be very effective. He's an extra little tool we have in our tool case," McCabe explained.

It's a tool Jami Guerrina said helped her 6-year-old son Britton get through a very rough couple of days.

"We had a very traumatic experience. We've been to the E.R. twice and lots of sticks and pokes,” Guerrina explained. “This guy (Britton) was brave, but it was tough. Jeremiah came and that was the first time he started to laugh and he started to play."

Jeremiah's visit began to help mom relax too.

"It's so hard to be strong for your kids and to hold it all together. Who doesn't love a nice big dog to come to play with your 6-year-old,” Guerrina said.

FOX 5 teamed up with Easterns Automotive Group to help Hero Dogs continue to Pay It Forward for veterans and patients. Joel Bassam of Easterns Automotive Group presented Hero Dogs with a check for $5,000 to help the organization continue its mission.

If you know someone who should be featured on Pay It Forward, you can nominate them here. In your email, be sure to include who they are and why they deserve to be recognized.

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