The Hinsley family’s call to service runs deep. Each of the four children has served (or will serve) as an SMSD puppy raiser. Their involvement began when their oldest son, JT, was in high school and needed volunteer service hours for a course he was taking. Given his father’s military background, and his love for animals, JT was drawn to SMSD. Because JT was only 17 years old, his mother, Marga, was required to participate in the training sessions and outings with him. They first served as socializers, taking dogs to public places. Later, as respite providers, they took dogs into their home for a few days at a time. One day, the Hinsleys were asked if they would con- sider raising an eight-week old puppy. Marga recalls immediately saying “no,” while JT responded with an eager “yes.” Marga acquiesced only after JT agreed to take on all responsibility. She also realized that this community service experience would merit additional consideration for college acceptance. The Hinsleys took SMSD’s puppy classes and raised Freedom for about eight months. The family absolutely loved Freedom and when it came time to return her, “It was excruciating,” Marga recalled. “We knew from the beginning that the dog would have to be returned at some point,” she explained, “but that didn’t make it easy.” Their attitude changed when the family attended their first “Passing of the Leash” ceremony. It was then that the children understood … “Oh, right! This is what it’s for!” “We’ve had to put dogs to sleep in the past,” Marga added, wistfully. “This is a much better way to say goodbye. These dogs are doing awesome things. They are needed and have a purpose.” Freedom was eventually matched with U.S. Army Specialist Jason Ehrhart. “Attending the graduation of a puppy we had raised was phenomenal,” Marga said. “At the graduation, I cried,” she recalled. Seeing this, Jason’s mother approached Marga and said compas- sionately, “I know this must be hard for you.” Marga responded, “This is something I’ve been praying for years. I’m not heartbroken; I am inspired!” Information about volunteer opportunities with SMSD can be found at www.smokymountainservicedogs.org PUPPY RAISING: A Family Affair SERVING WOUNDED WARRIORS