K-9 Six Project Pairs Shelter Dogs with Veterans
Jun 01, 2015 11:33AM ● Published by North Hills Monthly magazine
Kandy Barkley has two passions in life – rescuing shelter dogs and helping veterans.
The Zelienople business owner has always supported nonprofits that benefited both causes. Now, she has decided to combine her two passions into her own nonprofit called the K-9 Six Project. “I’ve been supporting other charities for a long time and just decided that I should start my own,” said the owner of Eye Kandy Boutique. “I wanted to choose a cause I was truly passionate about, so I combined my love of shelter dogs with my support for veterans because I thought it was a perfect match.”
The K-9 Six Project pairs shelter dogs with veterans to help provide both companionship and emotional support. The dogs are trained to ease anxiety, help reduce stress and to provide companionship and a better quality of life for those who have served their country. “Dogs are very healing,” said Barkley. “And with shelter dogs—some of which have been abused by former owners and have come from really bad circumstances—you are so focused on healing the dog that it takes your mind off of what you’re going through yourself.”
Once Barkley knew that she wanted to create her own nonprofit, she reached out to local businesswoman Cathi Erb, owner of My Dog’s Care Center, for help. With Erb’s knowledge of dog behavior and training techniques, Barkley thought she would be a perfect addition to the nonprofit.
“Kandy has been quite a philanthropist for a while, and she has always geared her efforts toward her two passions—dogs and vets,” said Erb. “So when she contacted me about starting this nonprofit, I said ‘yes,’ and it’s been one blessing after another ever since.”
The K-9 Six Project includes 12 volunteers—Erb and Barkley as cofounders, and 10 board members who share the organization’s vision. The group also has veteran liaisons who are tasked with helping other veterans through the application process. “The liaisons meet our veteran applicants and walk them through the process,” said Barkley. “Our liaisons are veterans themselves, so it provides a level of comfort for our applicants as they move through the process.”
The K-9 Six Project is working with One Dog At A Time to find the dogs that will be trained and paired with veteran applicants, said Erb. Once the dogs are selected, they will be fostered through the My Dog Care Center while they are evaluated and properly trained to work with veterans. “We want to work with the dogs and get them socialized and make sure that they do not have any behaviors that would prevent them from being paired with a vet,” said Erb. “Obviously, we don’t want a dog that barks at every little thing, because if a veteran has issues with loud sounds, the dog constantly barking would be more of a detriment than a benefit.”
Once a dog is properly trained and socialized, the veteran is brought in to learn how to work with the dog to continue the training. Erb said that they are halfway through the process of pairing their first dog with a veteran and things are going very well. “The dog is a perfect match for this veteran, and the veteran has done amazingly well in the training sessions we’ve had.”
The K-9 Six Project hopes to raise enough money through fundraising and corporate sponsorships to pair several dogs with veterans each year. Its first fundraiser of 2015 is the upcoming Pups for our Patriots–Fashion Fur a Cause event, which will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, June 7 at the Zelienople Community Park Amphitheater. The event is open to the general public.
Guests will be treated to a family-friendly fashion show featuring fashions from Eye Kandy Boutique, along with entertainment, vendors, food, a Chinese auction and raffle. Local models will be escorted by shelter dogs awaiting adoption from the Butler County Humane Society. Miss Pennsylvania USA Elizabeth Cardillo will make a special appearance, and KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio will serve as the master of ceremonies. All proceeds will benefit The K-9 Six Project.
Pups for our Patriots–Fashion Fur a Cause
Sunday, June 7
Zelienople Community Park Amphitheater
Limited VIP tickets are available for $30 and include reserved seating and a swag bag. Lawn seats are $15; children 10 and under are $8; and the family rate is $40. Veterans and current military members are admitted free. Tickets are available by calling 724-968-6040 or through the K-9 Six Project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thek9sixproject. For more information about the project, visit www.k9six.org.