TYLER, TX (KLTV)- East Texas dogs put their best paw forward today at the Paws in the Park Dog Fair in Tyler. The fair was organized to raise money for Patriot Paws, an organization that trains and donates service dogs to disabled Veterans.
Houston is a Yellow Lab in training to become a Patriot Paw service dog. "They just recently gave a dog to a man that had lost both of his legs below his knees in an explosion in Iraq," said Linda Guy, an organizer of the dog fair.
Houston and his furry friends will be given to disabled Veterans. They're trained to recognize thirty-five commands. "They can bring a wheelchair, tug a wheelchair to a Veteran. A Veterans prosthetic legs, they know how to get the leg bring it to them. Get the phone... Whatever that Veteran needs, we can teach that dog to help that veteran," said Rhonda Lee, a Patriot Paw trainer.
Patriot Paws not only impacts Veteran's lives, but also the lives of women in prison. Many of the service dogs are trained by female inmates. Lee served a seven year prison sentence and is now Houston's trainer.
"I had such a passion for this. It changed me. It gave me self esteem. It gave me a purpose while I was in [prison]. They gave me a chance at life," said Lee.
The fair at Bergfeld Park was organized for the service dogs, but other canines got their chance to show off. From "best dressed" to "longest tail" and "best tricks", there was something for everyone. Proud owners and determined trainers demonstrated the best their dogs have to offer.
"It's helped me to see that there is life outside of the wrong choices I made and just to see it's not all about me. It's about our veterans. It's about helping people," said Lee.
Patriot Paws is a non-profit organization. It costs $20,000 to $30,000 to train each dog, and they give them to veterans for free.