September is National Service Dog Month

They provide companionship, inspire confidence, and live to serve, protect, and assist their handlers. Guide dogs, seeing eye dogs, service pets, and assistance animals are helping their humans perform tasks, accomplish lifelong goals, embark on adventures, overcome debilitating mental illnesses, and safeguard military bases across the country and around the world.

National Service Dog Month celebrates guide dogs, seeing-eye dogs, service pets, and other assistance animals.

That’s why it is so important to recognize the service dogs who dedicate their lives — and sometimes even risk their lives — to help human beings. National Service Dog Month, an annual fundraising and awareness campaign held each September, is the perfect time to reflect on the roles service animals play in our lives.

Originally known as National Guide Dog Month, National Service Dog Month was first established in 2008 by actor, animal advocate, and Natural Balance Pet Foods founder Dick Van Patten. Inspired by what he experienced during a life-changing visit to the Guide Dogs of the Desert facility in Palm Springs, Calif., Van Patten launched a fundraising drive to benefit guide and service dog training schools throughout the country.

What started as one fundraiser has transformed into an annual celebration honoring the extraordinary work service animals do each and every day to help the people in their care.

According to the Petco Foundation, the honorary celebration has since been expanded to include service and assistance animals of all kinds, everything from service pot-bellied pigs to therapy bunnies and autism assistance felines.

While guide dogs are the main focus of National Service Dog Month fundraising drives, this year’s event will also highlight dogs who assist our brave service men and women — both on and off the battlefield. Military Working Dogs — dogs who put their lives on the line to detect explosives, find contraband, and protect military posts — and companion animals prescribed to U.S. military veterans for various physical and psychological conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, mobility issues, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are at the center of the Natural Balance fundraising efforts.

To commemorate National Service Dog Month 2013, Natural Balance has partnered with the Petco Foundation for the Helping Heroes campaign, a fundraising drive aimed at supporting America’s amazing service animals. Beginning September 28 and running through until October 20, customers will be able to donate to the Helping Heroes campaign right at the register of their local Petco store. Funds collected will directly benefit service animals and service animal training programs in communities across the U.S.

Those interested in making a contribution can also make an online donation or purchase a pack of Natural Balance L.I.T. Limited Edition treats today. Proceeds from the sale of these special pet treats will go toward funding the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, an honor set to be dedicated at Lackland Airforce Base in October 2013.

So this September, celebrate National Service Dog Month 2013 the right way — consider donating your time or money to a local service animal training and advocacy organization. Or consider helping Natural Balance Pet Foods and the Petco Foundation reach their fundraising goal of 1 million dollars to support service dog programs all over the U.S. and beyond.

Sources: Natural Balance Pet Foods, Petco Foundation, Wikipedia