APG first sergeant assists Dogfest, promotes free adoptions for veterans

First Sergeant Richard Bernard assists with a ribbon cutting to kick off the Baltimore Humane Society’s Dogfest walk and festival. Photo Courtesy of 1st Sgt. Richard Bernard.

First Sergeant Richard Bernard is a believer in the power of pets.

Bernard has had pets for most of his life and he’s been a dog owner since 2005. These days, you can find him walking around Aberdeen Proving Ground with his 4-year-old Presa Canario, Copper.

He said pets can provide love and affection while helping people cope and calm down from everyday anxieties. And since dogs can’t speak, they’re easy to share all your secrets with, he said.

“Sometimes just having a pet just brings out a different vibe in people. It kind of makes them smile a little more and makes them happier.”

It stands to reason that Bernard, who is the Garrison Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant, helped lead the Baltimore Humane Society’s annual Dogfest walk Sept. 16. The event aids the the humane society, which has existed since 1927 as a no-kill shelter based in Reisterstown.

Since 2013, the humane society has partnered with the national group Pets for Patriots to provide free adoptions for veterans, said Wendy Goldband, director of marketing and public relations.

Goldband said it made sense to connect the last chance animals and veterans.

“They’re two populations in need helping each other out,” she said. “I just thought that was really great.”

In addition to free adoptions, veterans receive a 10 percent discount at the Spay-Neuter Veterinary Wellness Center, which is operated by the Humane Society, for the life of the pet. They also receive a 20 percent discount on veterinary care for the life of the pet at a local animan hospital and a 10 percent discount at a local veterinary center.

Service members also receive free membership to Pets for Patriots and a $150 gift card to a major pet goods retailer, upon proof of eligible adoption, to help with food and essentials.

Goldband said the national organization has arranged 1,473 adoptions since it launched in 2010.

Bernard said taking part in the dog walk gave him a greater appreciation for what the humane society does to ensure animals are not euthanized. He said he will continue to promote free pet adoptions for veterans.

“They’re an extension of your family,” he said about ‘man’s best friend.’

“They’re another way to bring a little extra happiness to your life.”

By Jon Bleiweis, APG News