Published in The Sun News 04-18-13
On April 25, Serenity Spa at Conway’s Miller-Motte Technical College is offering specials for $10. Walk-ins are welcome from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for mini-massages, table or chair massage, haircuts, blow dry and style, or daytime makeover.
Sponsored by Sons of Italy Lodge 2868, the event is a fundraiser for Canine Angels.
Rick Kaplan founded Canine Angels in North Myrtle Beach in April 2011.
“I’ve been working hard and enjoying every minute of it. I’m way ahead of what I ever imagined. It’s been an incredible joyride,” he said.
Canine Angels, a nonprofit depending on donations and fundraisers, provides free service dogs to veterans. About 20 veterans now depend on their angels to serve them in numerous ways, and between 20 to 30 veterans are waiting for dogs. The cost of providing an angel is about $10,000, and if there were training costs, a low estimate would be $15,000, Kaplan said.
Kaplan donates countless hours to training, and some angels receive initial training in foster homes before he takes them into his pack.
Before the angels meet Kaplan, most all of them are on “death row” in one of several shelters between Wilmington and Georgetown. Kaplan is not breed conscious, and the angels, small and large, are mostly mixed breeds.
Veterans also have to be trained to work with their angel and training is ongoing. No dog, no veteran and no family is alike, Kaplan said, so each dog and the veterans they serve have to be trained to work together for specific purposes.
Kaplan, currently sharing his home with 11 angels in training, makes himself available to speak about Canine Angels, and he always takes his pack.
When he rides with them, they are listening to loud music, the sound of thunder, planes, trains and other noises that they must learn to ignore. He takes them to restaurants, to movies and numerous other places. Trained to stay beside him, they are never on leashes.
After six months in the program, a foxhound named Callie was transformed from a skittish shelter dog to a loyal, obedient and talented service dog helping a Vietnam veteran in Myrtle Beach with balance and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A few weeks ago, Callie died after a vehicle crashed into the door of his vehicle and severed her spine. The veteran recently decided to try again and is on a trial basis with a new angel.
Kaplan could not serve in the military when he was young, and said he realizes that it was veterans who allowed him to live the life he has lived.
“Their mission was the keep us free. Ours is to give them the freedom to enjoy life again,” he said.
Kaplan spent his career working in the jewelry and diamond business, but he found “pure gold” and a new purpose for his life in local animal shelters.
Canine Angels also trains and provides therapy dogs, and a degree of training by Kaplan has made about 100 other shelter dogs adoptable.
Miller-Motte is at 2451 U.S. 501 E., Conway. For other services on April 25, call Serenity Spa at 591-1110 and mention Canine Angels. Visit Canine Angels at www.canineangelsservicedogs.orgor call 917-575-6235.
Reach PEGGY MISHOE at 365-3885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.