Niagara Gazette

Communities

July 2, 2014

DELUCA: 'Bad' dogs help vets

Niagara Gazette — Bubba was a giant, grey-and-white, spotted pit bull that nobody at the shelter held out much hope for.

He was big, strong and tough to handle, probably abused. He was facing a life forever enclosed in a small cage until a group of local veterans changed his life.

And in his own way, Bubba may have changed theirs.

“I approached him just like I would a junior Marine,” said Josh Hays, a Marine corporal reservist from Lewiston who described the dog’s transformation to me. “I would take him for a nice long run and tire him out and then he’d be ready to learn.”

Hays, president of the veteran student group at the University at Buffalo, is a member of Dog Tags Niagara.  He found out about the program last year when the three co-founders, including Suzy Alexander of Tonawanda, Toni Derrick of Pendleton and Joe Ruszala of Hamburg, came to meet with his student group. As a marine and an animal lover, Hays immediately understood the value of the program and starting spending time at the SPCA with other veterans, working with many of the hard-to-place dogs, typically the pit bulls.

Bubba, now adopted, is one of the success stories of the Dog Tags program. The program was created in response to the horrifying news that U.S. troops commit suicide at a rate of 22 per day. The founders of Dog Tags Niagara believe those numbers are an outrage, and so should we. 

I first heard about Dog Tags Tuesday from Dennis Brochey, supervisor of the Town of Lewiston, who was meeting with the group to present them with a check for $4,400, part of the funds he raises for military support programs every year at his annual bench press contest.

Brochey had met Ruszala, a Vietnam vet and one of the founders of Dog Tags, at his February competition at the Connecticut Street Armory. When Brochey heard the statistics on veteran suicides, he was appalled.  But, there was something Brochey could do to help. 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Communities
Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page