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Pits for Patriots gives puppy love to veterans

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 3:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 1, 2013 11:24 a.m. CDT
(Lathan Goumas)
Lathan Goumas - lgoumas@shawmedia.com Pits for Patriots founder Kelly Yearwood poses for a portrait with demo service dog Achilles during the Second annual Pits for Patriots benefit motorcycle ride at Woodstock Harley-Davidson in Woodstock, Ill. on Saturday, June 8, 2013. Pits for Patriots was started by Yearwood and her husband Greg in Bensenville to provide service, therapy and companion dogs for veterans and first responders.

BENSENVILLE – On New Year’s Eve, Kelly Yearwood received a call saying that someone of Chicago had an unwanted breeding.

The pups were put in a box and placed on the side of the road to make room for a New Year’s Eve party. The dogs were on their way to the pound if they could not be rescued from this fate. Phoebe, a shepherd mix who now is 6 months old, was one of the dogs rescued by Yearwood’s Pits for Patriots. She has passed basic obedience training and moved on to the intermediate level. She is in the making to become a service dog for a veteran in need.

Pits for Patriots is a Bensenville-based nonprofit organization that trains qualified rescued pit bulls to be service, skilled companion or companion dogs for veterans and first responders in need.

The organization is committed to helping U.S. patriots, in addition to educating the public about the loyalty, devotion and commitment of the pit bull – saving not one life, but two.

Yearwood fell in love with pit bulls unexpectedly. When she and her husband, Greg, lost their dog, they adopted their first pit bull puppy in 2006.

“I fell in love with the breed,” said Kelly Yearwood, founder of Pits for Patriots. “Few people would foster them, so we did.”

For six years, the Yearwoods had been volunteering at Chicagoland Rescue Dog, rescuing abused and forgotten pups. During her years of rescuing dogs, Yearwood said she learned to dislike people for all the horrible things she saw them doing to dogs. Her family suggested she work to teach the public about dogs and teach herself about people. She found that veterans were the perfect match for her and her love of pit bulls.

“Vets get the same stigma that pit bulls do,” she said. “They want pit bulls in their life. They are very open to the breed.”

Pits for Patriots trains companion dogs, service dogs and therapy dogs. It takes Yearwood and other volunteers two years to train a service dog.

After they are trained, the organization sends out applications for veterans to adopt the dog. The organization reviews the applicants, and when they have chosen someone they think will best fit the pit bull, the veteran must train with the dog about six weeks.

If no veteran is right for the dog or the dog is not right for the program, applications will go out to civilians.

The organization has matched five companion dogs so far.

One deaf pit bull went to the family of a career Air Force man, a companion/therapy dog was matched with a retired OIF Army veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and another companion dog was placed with a first responder. No service dogs have been placed yet. They hope their first service dog, Mira, will be matched by September at the latest.

Pits for Patriots’ mission is to educate the public about pit bulls – what the dog is capable of doing, their ancestry and what the breed is all about. 

Yearwood has three rescued dogs of her own. Two pit bulls named Hendrix and Amos, and one boxer, pit bull mix named Achilles.

Her dogs have become mascots for the cause due to their hard life experiences and endearing personalities. They travel to events to bring a personal touch to the cause.

Yearwood never had formal training. She started training her own dogs in 1999 and worked with many professional trainers during her time volunteering. She is starting school for a certification soon.

“I had dogs my whole life,” she said. “My grandma is a huge animal lover and taught us how to respect and treat an animal.”

Pits for Patriots is looking for volunteers to help with event planning that will allow the organization to raise funds and expand the company. Yearwood said they are looking to get a facility for the organization, as well.

For information about Pits for Patriots and upcoming events and fundraisers, visit its website at www.pitsforpatriots.org.

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