BROCKWAY — Service dogs do not just appear by magic. Someone has to be willing to help a dog on its journey from puppy to companion, and Brockway’s Melissa Hrinya is taking on that responsibility for a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Hrinya is the incoming president of the American Legion Auxiliary. Every president has a project, and Hrinya wanted to do something more hands-on.
“We seem to raise money and write a check, but I wanted to do something that people can actually see,” Hrinya said. “This all fell into place.”
Hrinya has a friend with a service dog. Her daughter works for foster care and had been talking to a family with a pregnant German Shepherd. That family donated the dog.
“Originally, you could be looking at $30,000 to get the pup and train them,” Hrinya said. “But with the dog being donated and Top Dog in St. Marys training the dog for a lot less that that, everything worked out.”
Step one, of course, was making sure that the family wants a dog the size of a German Shepherd in the house. Once the right person was identified, the process began.
The donated pup was named Tesha. Hrinya said the name means “guardian,” and this dog would be the guardian of a veteran.
“She has to go through obedience school because she’s still a puppy — even though she’s 50 pounds!”
Tesha started school Tuesday. She will receive emotional support training as well as some additional training to make sure she’s perfect for her guardian position before moving in with her family in Potter County.
“I’m going to miss her tremendously,” Hrinya said. Tesha lives with Hrinya and her family during the training period. “I think it was easier in the beginning not to get too attached.”
Hrinya’s Yorkshire Terrier and Tesha became fast friends, and that helped Hrinya accept the bigger dog. However, this is a temporary arrangement. The veteran who will receive the dog friended Hrinya on Facebook so he can see the whole training process. That is a comfort for Hrinya, knowing she can see how Tesha’s doing in the future.
“I’m actually finding it harder and harder now,” Hrinya said. “I have to keep reminding myself what her journey is. Tesha helped me stay calm through my stress, but I have to remember that there’s someone who needs her more than I do.”