In loving memory
Vietnam Veteran, PVT US Army
Joe “The Dog Trainer” White

On March 13, 1942, the US Army developed the War Dog Program also known as the K9 Corps to support our soldiers during WWII.  Military dogs had various roles during World War II, including scouting, protecting camps and supply lines, and rescuing pilots. The Vietnam War saw the biggest dog deployment in American military history.

It was Vietnam Veteran, Joe J. White, that lead the charge to honor these brave 4 legged heroes for their service to our Country.  Joe was a dog handler and trainer in Vietnam and witnessed first-hand the important contributions of the military working dogs.  He was also adamant to stop the practice of euthanizing these K9 service members after they completed their military duty.  On June 11, 2015, bill H.R. 2742 was introduced “to support veterans and military dog handlers by ensuring that military working dogs come home to the United States after they have been relieved from their service in combat roles overseas.”  Although this practice has been stopped (often the dogs live with their handler or a loving family), to date, this bill has not had forward movement.

Although Joe White passed away on October 24, 2009, his wife continued his mission to get this holiday recognized every March 13th.  In 2010, K9 Veterans Day finally received its first formal recognition in New Jersey.  Today, it is being recognized nationwide.

Today's military dogs are valued as important members of their military units and even have their own retirement ceremonies, awards, medals and memorial services.  One important annual awards ceremony, Animals In War and Peace held their 4th annual event last week at the US Capitol recognizing our military and first responder dogs for their bravery and valor along-side their handlers.

K-9 Veterans Day also honors support animals for people with mental health concerns and other service dogs that assist the disabled.  As therapy dogs, they provide comfort and support to veterans and civilians to alleviate stress, anxiety, and PTS symptoms. As service dogs, they assist individuals with disabilities, offering them greater independence and quality of life. These canine warriors continue to serve long after their official duties have ended, proving that their heroism extends far beyond their line of duty or battlefield.

All of us at Military Animal Project thank these K9 heroes for their unwavering loyalty to protect, serve and most importantly provide us every day with their unconditional love. 

So take a moment today to honor, remember and celebrate these brave, dedicated and amazing canine companions.  


Tune in and listen to the podcast below!

Hundreds of people played with emotional support and service dogs at the Amazon fulfillment center in Oxnard on Friday.

The second annual event was a part of a partnership between Amazon and the nonprofit Military Animal Project to celebrate Veterans Day.

The locally based group, which started in Ventura County and opened a second chapter in Nevada in 2022, matches trained emotional support and service animals with veterans to assist them with their day-to-day lives and facilitate healing.

Owners and canines visited the company's cavernous warehouse on Sakioka Drive, west of Del Norte Boulevard, where dogs were greeted with smiles, hugs and a few kisses as they strolled concrete corridors lined with bright yellow bins. The fulfillment center, which started shipping goods in February 2022, processes packages for Amazon customers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Check out the original article HERE to see all of the volunteers who visited the warehouse!

MILITARY ANIMAL PROJECT (MAP) and NV TEAM RUBICON work together to get Military Animal Project's new Dog Training & Equine Facility in Reno, NV up and running!

KOLO NEWS 8 RENO came out to highlight two Veteran non profit organizations, bringing their talented efforts together to provide much needed animal support services to veterans in need.

Check out the video HERE!

‘Stock Your Cellar’ Event Supports the Military Animals Project | Training Service Animals to help Our Vets

Originally published by the Citizen's Journal -

Author and photo credits - Denise Pedrow

I’ve attended two of Holdren’s Steaks and Seafood-Stock Your Cellar events.  This past one was hands-down my favorite.  Not only were the wines and hors d oeuvre delicious, but the presence of some special guests of honor made the day extra festive.   This year, Holdren’s Steakhouse graciously offered to make their annual event into a fundraiser for “Military Animal Project”, a new Ventura County Non-Profit that works to rescue, train and pair dogs with Veterans who would benefit from having an Emotional Support or Psychiatric Service Dog.

As I walked inside the event, two furry friends lay on the cool tile inside of Holdren’s Steakhouse.  I was most struck by the sense of gentleness and peace that radiated from the dogs.  Kind and knowing eyes looked at me as I leaned down to say hello.  These trained professionals did not sniff or start with surprise as I leaned over them.  The Military Animals Project volunteers were a delightful addition to the wine tasting event.  Next to the dogs and their trainers, a lively raffle table was doing brisk business as tickets were purchased for the generous prize provided by Holdren’s Steaksand Seafood. (  I was happy to see favorite cellars being represented at the event such as Stags Leap, Silver Oak, Grgich Hills and San Simeon to name a few.

After tasting the delicious wines, I got a chance to sit for a few minutes with Mardu Lydick, Director of Military Animal Project.  She explained how after many years as Director for Ventura County “Pets for Vets” organization she recognized a need to broaden the scope of animals and treatments to help the over 46,000 Veterans living in Ventura County.

On May 7, 2018, “Military Animal Project” ( or MAP, was begun to train service dogs in Ventura County.  MAP was soon joined by “Veteran Barn Door Project” ( to bring Equine Therapy alongside training service dogs and a new non-profit was begun.Military Animal Project (MAP) has an all-volunteer crew of 15-20 people who work with carefully chosen dogs from Ventura and Los Angeles County rescue and shelter facilities.  The MAP trainers can carefully assess up to 400 dogs before one with the right temperament and age is found.  It takes up to 2-3 months for a dog to be fully trained for Emotional Support and longer to become a Psychiatric Service Dog.

The carefully trained pups provide key emotional support and comfort for Veterans suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, PTS(D) and many other physical injuries.  The dogs become more than just a pet, they provide a purpose for a Veteran to live in the present and not the past.  Sometimes the most healing thing the therapy dogs do is to show affection through physical contact such as licking a Veterans face to help bring them out of an anxiety attack.  Other dogs can help with waking the Veteran from nightmares, reminding them to take their medication and even turning on lights if needed. Military Animal Project is certain to become a stellar non-profit in Ventura County as it helps lead the charge in providing care and support to our local heroes.

SATURDAY JULY 21 at 10 am

Hello Members and Associates
By the time this article reaches you, summer would have already started. With that in mind, our Annual MCL Family Picnic will be held on Saturday July 21, 2018 at the Veterans Plaza at Lemon Park, Simi Valley.
We will be meeting at the park at 10:00 am to set up, if you would like to help with setting up please join us.

This year in appreciation for all that you all have done for the league, there is no charge for the picnic! Come one come all! The only thing that I ask is that you would please a Main Dish, Side/Salad or Dessert according to your last name, see below. There will also be a Salsa/Chili contest the 1st Place Winner will receive 2 Tickets to our Marine Corps Ball, 2nd Place Winner will receive 1 Ticket, and 3rd Place Winner will receive a consolation prize.

Here is the List according to the first letter of your last name.

Please E-Mail me at for any questions or letting me know if you will be attending and how many will be coming.

See you at our next meeting and hope to see you at our July Picnic!

Read what our military members said about the event HERE!

Originally posted on the VC Star HERE

Written by Robyn Flans, Special to Ventura County StarPublished 5:57 p.m. PT May 14, 2018

When Kevin Lamme, a 25-year-old Marine reservist, suffers what he calls a night terror and starts thrashing in his sleep, his dog Duke wakes him up by snuggling next to him and nuzzling his wet nose against Lamme’s face.

Lamme and his 2-year-old Belgian Malinois live in Simi Valley with Brian Olex, also a Marine reservist, and his 3-year-old pit bull cattle dog Kaia, along with another roommate and a cat.

Both Lamme and Olex received dogs last September from the Ventura County chapter of Pets for Vets, now called the Military Animal Project. The organization rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to help veterans, reservists and even active-duty members of the military if they can prove they won't deploy for 12 months. A fundraiser for the group is set for Thursday.

In 2012, the two Marines served in the 3rd ANGLICO unit, an Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. They were deployed to Afghanistan at different times and reconnected at Olex’s birthday and welcome home party in 2016. They decided to become roommates last year.

Lamme, a pre-med student, learned about Pets for Vets from Olex, 25, an exercise science major at California Lutheran University. Olex had spotted the organization at a college fair on the Moorpark College campus while he was taking an extra credit class.

Bob Horrell, the director of training for Military Animal Project and a veteran himself, was there with a dog in training. Olex recalls that as soon as he encountered Horrell and the dog, he felt his tension dissipate. He signed up for a dog on the spot.

“I would get inside my own head, and I knew I needed something to keep my mind busy all the time,” Olex said.

Then he told Lamme about the organization.

Lamme remembered how calming a dog overseas was, among all the turmoil there.

“While everything was blowing up around us and everything was going to hell, there was still this loyal, loving dog that didn’t really care or judge you for the things you had done,” Lamme said.

Olex got together with trainers Laurette Chapman and Horrell and explained he needed a dog that would enjoy hikes, trail running and fishing, as well as just relaxing at home. He had returned stateside with great difficulty being alone.

The trainers found Kaia first, then Duke. Horrell said he knew Duke had the temperament to help Lamme with his nightmares. Chapman said Kaia was spry and active, fitting Olex’s needs.

Chapman said it takes six to eight weeks on average to train the shelter dogs. This situation was unique in that the two dogs had to train together, given that they would be living together. Chapman and Horrell got together once a week with the dogs.

“Typically, the vets do not meet the dog until we are ready to turn them over,” Chapman explained. “With Brian and Kevin, it was different because I had to work with Bob to make sure everyone would get along. They actually did meet the dogs before the turnover because of that scenario. And because of another roommate and cat, we had to make sure all things were covered.”

To help with bonding, the vets are instructed to wear a T-shirt throughout the day, sleep in it, then mail it to the trainers.

“The last two weeks you put it in the bed at night so when the dog meets the veteran, it’s, ‘Oh, I know you,’” Horrell explained. “They recognize their scent, and it immediately helps with the bonding.”

Olex said the connection with Kaia was not immediate, but he felt they were a lot alike.

“Meeting people for the first time I’m reserved and very quiet,” Olex admitted. “I’m learning and listening. That’s how Kaia was. The dogs were already playing in the backyard and I got off work. She was like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ She would come over, walk away and her eyes were studying me and trying to learn me. It was really cool.”

The turning point for them was when he put Kaia in the bed of his truck to go on a hunting trip and she put her paws on his shoulders and pulled him in for a hug.

“In that instant, the relationship took a turn,” Olex said.

Chapman believes the organization saves lives — of both the dog and the combat veteran.

Horrell echoed that.

“We make a lifetime match for the dog and the veteran,” Horrell said. “If something happens to the veteran, we’ll take the dog back. If something happens to the dog — say he gets cancer — we’ll get the veteran another dog if they want it. We stay involved.

For Olex especially, the dog has been a vital addition to his life.

“Every day I get up, Kaia gives me a purpose,” Olex said.

Agoura Hills resident Stephanie Clark, a comedian and an animal lover, began working with the organization three years ago. On Thursday, she and her husband, Tom, will host their second comedy show at the Elks Lodge in Thousand Oaks to raise money for the organization. While the admission is free, donations are welcome.

The first year, the couple raised more than $2,000.

“I thought they were a great organization because you’re helping rescue animals and veterans,” Stephanie Clark said. “I lost my father when I was young, and having a dog was my therapy.”


Military Animal Project (MAP- ) was developed and launched out of the former organization, Pets For Vets Ventura County Chapter (PFV VCC).  After 4 years of working with our local veterans, Co-Founders Bob Horrell, Director of Operations and Mardu Lydick, Executive Director, realized that there was a much greater need for Therapy, Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Service Dogs.  MAP has created a unique opportunity to positively impact the lives of many of our local heroes -  AT NO COST TO THE VETERAN.  This is our way of saying, “Thank you for your service.”

Our therapeutic pet services include;

Whenever possible, MAP works with animal rescue organizations and local shelters, such as Ventura County Animal Services, the Agoura Animal Shelter, and the LA County Department of Animal Care & Control to adopt our dogs. We then train and pair dogs with veterans suffering from PTS(D) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) who could benefit from a professionally trained animal.  With a dedicated volunteer team, MAP is changing the lives of animals and veterans, one match at a time.  MAP serves the cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Pt. Mugu, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Woodland Hills.


Therapy Dogs

MAP will offer Certified Therapy Dog Services to veterans to support them in therapy sessions, hospital visits and supportive events. The dogs will be tested, certified, registered, and insured with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (, a 28 year old national organization.

Currently, Bob Horrell's dog, Paws, is certified with ATD and has been used in therapy applications. We currently have 2 other dogs along with their owners at MAP that will go through the ATD program to become therapy dogs.

ESA/Service Dog

Once the Veteran application is received, it is thoroughly reviewed by the Director of Operations and approval is sought from the veteran’s therapist to ensure he or she is ready to care for a dog. The trainer then meets with the veteran to assess his/her needs and dog preferences. Upon completion of that step, the trainer searches shelters and pet rescues to find the right breed, size, temperament and behavior that would be best suited for the veteran. This part of the process can take a lot of time (as we need to ensure that the dog doesn’t have any existing behavioral, aggression or anxiety issues that need correcting before the training can commence).  After the right dog is selected for the veteran, the dog spends time with one of our trainers who teaches the pet basic obedience and other valuable behaviors needed to live with his/her new owner.  Our trainers use positive reinforcement techniques to teach the dogs good manners as well as Canine Good Citizenship (CGC). Training also includes behaviors needed to help with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTS(D) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), desensitization to wheelchairs or crutches, and recognizing and reacting to panic or anxiety disorder behaviors, to name a few.

After an extensive training process, (which can last up to 4 months for an Emotional Support Dog) the veteran and dog meet for the first time. Each dog is healthy, up to date on all vaccinations, is spayed/neutered and microchipped.  All expenses and out of pocket costs from adoption fees, veterinary care, licensing, microchipping, spay/neuter is paid for by MAP. In addition, MAP provides the veteran with a Welcome Package that includes everything from a collar/leash, bed, crate, toys, treats, grooming items, etc, with a value of nearly $500.

The support doesn’t end after the match. MAP helps veterans find reduced cost veterinary care and equipment. In addition, the trainer provides after-placement support. If the veteran ever has any questions or concerns about their dog, MAP is available to help.

All of our dogs are trained at ESA level.  If the veteran requires a Psychiatric Service Dog, training will begin after the ESA dog has been matched with the veteran.  At this point, the veteran, ESA dog and trainer will work together to bring the training up to Service Dog level.  This training can take up to a year to complete.

Therapy Equine Program

We are an affiliate of the Veteran Barn Door Project ( ). This project was started by Steven DePalma, a 20 year veteran who found the healing powers of Equine Therapy for his own PTS(D) and TBI. This equine program uses Natural Horsemanship to enable the veteran to identify and address their internal issues of PTS(D)/TBI. This gives the East Coast based VBDP a West Coast presence by hosting/sponsoring the program twice a year at Bob & Linda Horrell's ranch in Acton, CA. These three day clinics are free to the veterans who are housed and fed at the ranch. The clinics are purposely kept small (4 to 6 veterans) to allow each veteran maximum time with the horses and clinicians. Many healing moments take place with the horses during the day with resultant conversations taking place during the evening meals where veterans and clinicians discuss the events of the day and it's affect on the veteran's issues. The veteran's individual therapists are encouraged to attend as well.

Bob & Linda Horrell have been hosting and sponsoring these clinics for the past two years and their Therapy Dog, Paws, is an important asset during these functions, combining two of the services we offer. Bob also trained a dog (Mia) for Steven, who accompanies him to all his clinics.

MAP will look to expand this program by selecting/approving a suitable ranch in Ventura County to host additional VBDP clinics.

Pet Support Services

Assisting the Military Veteran with various pet needs/support due to physical or financial hardships. Examples of some of the services provided:

All services are reviewed on a case by case basis.

If you would like to volunteer, please call or email Mardu Lydick at 805-551-1168 or

We are a volunteer 501c3 that operates through the generosity of donors throughout our community!

Donations can be mailed to:
Military Animal Project
207 W. Los Angeles Ave, #123
Moorpark, CA 93021
EIN 46-5544969

Vietnam veteran Allen Ghimenti knows that dog truly is man's best friend. The 69-year-old Thousand Oaks resident recently procured Jetstar, a Labrador retriever and German shepherd mix, through the Ventura chapter of Pets for Vets after the death of Calie, his dog of 15 years.

"When I go for a walk with her, she pulls me through the hills in the area, which allows me to walk easier," Ghimenti said. "I'm getting tugged by a tugboat."

At night, Ghimenti, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, has flashbacks of battles.

"She has woken me up three times since I've gotten her," Ghimenti said. "I don't know if I was whimpering or what I was doing, but she knew something was wrong and she nudged me in the head with her snout."

It took three months for the Ventura chapter, which was formed in May 2014, to match Ghimenti and Jetstar. It was the chapter's first match.

Mardu and Ron Lydick said they formed the chapter because of their appreciation of both veterans and animal rescues. They said it took time to get the volunteers and trainers on board, as well as the funding: It costs about $1,500 to $2,000 to provide a dog for a veteran.

"That is for adoption fees, shots, veterinary care, microchipping, neutering, as well as a welcome package," Mardu Lydick said.

The welcome package includes all the basics a dog needs -- crate, treats, bed, collar, leash and toys -- so there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the veteran.

Want to learn more? Read the original article HERE!

View the original post HERE


It’s said that doing good should be its own reward, and three local nonprofit organizations are working to ensure that the rewards come full circle. One completes the circle via a reciprocal match-up of pets that need a home with military veterans who need the comfort and companionship of a loving animal. A second revolves around a self-fulfilling, pay-it-forward program in which at-risk youths who are trained to become successful entrepreneurs give back to the nonprofit that trains them. The third brings individual donors together to increase the impact of their giving while also enjoying a new circle of friendship. Driven by such perpetual motion, all three are picking up momentum.



PERHAPS IT WAS FATE that Mardu Lydick would found the Ventura County chapter of Pets for Vets ( For the last 20 years, the Moorpark resident and her husband, Ron, have rescued, sheltered, fostered, and placed a series of dogs.

“We both just love animals,” she says. But that’s only half the equation.

“I’ve got a ton of veterans in my family,” she adds. When Ron, who supported the Gary Sinise Foundation and similar veteran support groups over the years, read about a national organization that paired vets in need with shelter and rescue dogs, the couple found a way to combine their favorite causes to mutual advantage. They established the chapter in May 2014.

“We’re blessed to have quality volunteers, including a co-director and six professional dog trainers,” Mardu says. That’s important because once a veteran applies for a support animal and provides a military ID and history, a trainer gets to know him well enough to understand what kind of pet is needed.

“The vet may have PTSD, anxiety, depression, or physical disabilities, or no ailment at all. It’s a process,” she says, “and it has its own pace.” Over the next several months the trainer searches Ventura County shelters and rescue centers for just the right pet in terms of sex, size, breed, and temperament. Then the animals are trained to provide the exact help that’s needed. These are not service dogs, Mardu emphasizes. They range from a companion dog—a well-trained family animal—to an emotional support dog that can keep a stranger from approaching too closely, for example, or alert the vet if there’s someone approaching from behind. There is no charge for adoption, training, or a welcome package of products.

“This is a thank-you to the vets for their service,” says Mardu. As with any nonprofit, there’s always a need for fundraising, since the average cost of each match is about $3,000.

“Because we are a young chapter, the hardest part is community awareness,” Mardu says. “There are a lot of resources for vets, but we need to let them know that we are here.” Then there’s her goal of getting more qualified trainers on board, at least 12.

“Veterans do enough waiting,” she says. “We don’t want them waiting for a pet.”

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