The month of September is National Service Dog Awareness Month and fittingly Purina Dog Chow has teamed up with radio and television personality, as well as, avid military supporter Bobby Bones to launch the third annual Service Dog Salute campaign. This will mark Bobby Bones’ second-year joining forces with Purina Dog Chow to support this amazing campaign.
A service dog can be life-changing in helping veterans with PTSD and other post-combat challenges. Unfortunately, due to the cost and time, it takes to train a service dog, less than 1% of veterans in need can obtain one. Dog Chow is on a mission to help change that. The Service Dog Salute campaign supports the care and training of more service dogs for America’s military veterans — so that every hero in need can find a canine hero of their own.
Psychiatric service dogs are not the same as emotional support, therapy, or companion dogs. Like service dogs for the blind, deaf, and physically disabled, psychiatric service dogs for veterans must be specifically trained to help their handlers perform tasks they cannot otherwise perform on their own. The training process can take from one to two-and-a-half years to learn to perform tasks such as:
- Placing body weight on the veteran to promote a sense of calm during panic attacks
- Waking the veteran from upsetting dreams or night terrors
- Reminding the veteran to take medications
- Alerting the veteran when someone is approaching from behind
- Patrolling the perimeter of a room for triggers and threats
Over the next year, Dog Chow will follow the journey of several service dogs in training that are currently preparing to serve a veteran in need.
We had a chance to catch up with Bobby Bones and he opened up to us about how he became involved with Purina Dog Chow and the Service Dog Salute campaign, what it means to him, the importance of service animals, his upcoming projects in the works and more!
I think it is absolutely wonderful, what you are doing, pairing up with Purina Dog Chow for the Service Dog Salute campaign! Can you tell us more about how you became involved with this wonderful cause?
It is such a wonderful cause and on my show, even before I started working with Purina, what we were doing was getting service dogs for Vets because it is a thing and Purina was doing the same thing just on a bigger level. So we were both doing it and running parallel to one another and then they had the idea of why don’t we just combine our strengths and that’s kind of how we ended up in this spot. We had like-minded ideas, so yeah, I’m really excited, mostly because having raised a bunch of money for Vets and dogs …they are super expensive… like $20,000 to get it trained and ready to go into acting as a service dog, so when I found out the amount of good they were doing it was hard for me to not jump in so I did!
What are some ways that people can be involved with the campaign? Would you recommend donations or talking to their local and state government representatives?
It’s great that you bring that up! Actually, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act was passed by the House and they are waiting on Senate approval and the easiest way to get involved, for those, like myself, who may not want to write their own letter …I want someone smart to write it for me … but if you go to DogChow.com/service the letter is already written and it goes right to your own people. That’s a big part of what we’re doing …one, raising the money to get these dogs trained up and two, raising awareness so we can get this bill passed. In the end, we just want to make as many Vets feel as comfortable as they possibly can and these dogs are a solution to that!
Absolutely! I don’t think people always understand the differences between various types of service animals as they mostly think of seeing-eye dogs but don’t often think about PTSD or other types of mental illness that our troops are coming home with!
This is my second year working with them, so at this point, we are so on the same team and last year I was getting to hang out with some of the guys and one of the guys had his dog with him and he was protecting Presidents at Camp David, so he was doing security for Presidents and he’s seen a bunch of stuff and he suffered from panic attacks while he slept and his dog took control of him while he slept, meaning he would jump up on the bed and lay on his chest …he was so trained …and his kids were with him and said our dad is a completely different person because he has this dog. In the end, these guys are the ones fighting for our country, our rights, our liberty, and we should be taking care of them, so that’s why I love working with Purina Dog Chow cause they do! They don’t just say it, as I make sure to partner with folks who don’t just say it, they just do it! It’s really cool and I’m really honored.
You are such a true Renaissance Man! You do it all with the television stuff going on, the radio show, a band, a book author, and more! What upcoming projects do you have in the works? How is the television show “Breaking Bobby Bones” going with Nat Geo?
It’s good! I think if you call it a “Renaissance Man”, I think I’m not great at anything so I kind of do everything and just try to get something to catch. Right now we are in the middle of shooting “Breaking Bobby Bones” on Nat Geo and it’s a sixteen part series and COVID-19 delayed us for a few months like it did everyone else and we’ve shot a bunch of episodes but we have until January or February to get them all in and if we don’t get delayed anymore, so hopefully we get them all in and hopefully I’m not physically broken (laughs), as some of it has been really tough. I’m also hoping to get back over to “American Idol” because I love that show so much and if I can finish “Breaking Bobby Bones” in time I’ll get back over to “American Idol”.
That would be amazing! What has been one of the hardest transitions for you going from radio to television?
Mostly just make-up and hair! Radio I can say what I want when I want it, it’s live …with television, there is a lot of set-ups. They have to set lights, cameras … it takes nearly twenty minutes just to shoot a scene so that for me is something that I really had to learn to have patience with so that is probably the biggest adjustment.
I can only imagine. You are so beloved within the world of country music, is there any foray that you would like to get into that you haven’t yet?
I’m lucky that when I started at radio, I built my syndication company at pop … I was over doing pop radio and I kept bringing on country artists because that’s how I grew up and that was my sensibility so they were like why don’t you just do this on the country side so I’ve been able to do pop and I’ve been able to do country and I did a national alternative show and a national sports show so I feel like regardless of what format of radio you’re in people are still people and I’ve never feared away from what I believe and what I want to talk about so right now I feel pretty good about where I am. I’m in the right spot, working hard, and I’m lucky I get to work and I get to work with good folks like Purina Dog Chow I feel pretty good about everything right now and those are usually famous last words (laughs)!
I feel like your various shows between the radio show and the podcasts have always been very on-point and very organic, as it doesn’t seem overly rehearsed. It seems as though you have a natural rapport with the people you are working with …how important were those elements to you starting out?
You know, one thing we do to our detriment at times, but mostly it’s positive to us is not being scripted ever! Sometimes that can get a little tricky. To me, it’s always about sounding as authentic as possible. Authenticity is for sure currency at this point with me and with anyone who is producing or creating any sort of content. I always feel, it may be ugly and you may disagree with me but I’m always going to be honest because at least you’ll respect it and know that I’m not trying to get one over on you because when someone tries to get one over on you, you don’t believe anything he says, so for me, that’s such a big deal with interviews and even with content we are doing on the show and even in the television world now so it’s definitely a priority and hopefully I’m able to continue the trajectory that we’re on!
Have you always been an animal lover?
Oh yeah! More than people honestly! (laughs) And until my girlfriend now, I would say more than people ever! I have Stanley now, he’s a bulldog and he’s about a year and three months and he is now a linebacker and then before that, I had Dusty for fifteen years. There was a raid at a puppy mill and I grabbed a bunch of puppies and I took the runt and that’s how I got Dusty and the same thing with Stanley, I had a friend who had a bulldog whose eyes were messed up and other problems and nobody wanted him because it was going to take time and a lot of money to fix the dog and I was like, well, people had to take me in, so I’ll take Stanley. So, I rescued Dusty from a puppy mill and I got Stanley who needed a bunch of surgeries that nobody wanted to fix so I feel like I owe it back to them.
Amazing! People don’t realize just how much a dog can truly become a member of the family.
Until you get one and then you shift that quickly. I love that dog and Caitlin loves the dog. My last dog had been through everything with me with moves and he’s the one consistent piece of my life within a really inconsistent life. Love dogs! Love service dogs … sometimes I even feel like I could use one a little bit, but not like these guys need them. They really need one and they’re so expensive, so yeah, it’s been great.
I know! So many people always joke saying that want to put a vest on their pets and call them service dogs! (laughs)
Listen, don’t get busted doing that because it’s a serious issue. What’s so great, for example, this a way that I know people can help which is to go and buy a marked bag of Purina Dog Chow now through Thanksgiving and they are going to donate up to $100,000 and buy more service dogs and to actually see it with your eyes …there’s a documentary they are working on where they’re taking Vets and the dogs that are training and they are meeting their Vets and if you want to cry … the two things that make me cry are anytime there is a military reunion at like, a football game or someone surprising their family and animals, so when you combine animals and Vets… it’s over!
Seriously! I am a crier, so those situations are definitely waterworks time for me as well! However, it is beautiful at the same time.
It definitely is!
Are there any final comments you would like to share or anything we should be staying tuned for?
Well, for me personally, just trying to get these television shows up and running at a time when nothing is really up and running at full speed and then also, the most important thing is how to help with Purina Dog Chow, just buying the bags …they’re specially marked through Thanksgiving … and also again, just DogChow.com/service and let’s let our people know they’re representing us that we care. They are going to move based on how much we move. I think that is just a really strong point that I’m proud to emphasize.
Dog Chow continues to help fund organizations that train service dogs for veterans with PTSD. From September 1, 2020, through Thanksgiving (November 26, 2020), for every purchase of a specially marked bag, Dog Chow will make a donation to its two partnering veteran service dog organizations, up to a total of $100,000. The donations will be split equally between the Pets & Vets program at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) and Got Your Six Support Dogs. Over the last three years, Dog Chow has donated over $700,000 to support the training of more service dogs for military veterans.
“As a veteran, I am sensitive to the many issues fellow veterans face as they transition after their service; those who faced combat often have the greatest challenges,” said Steve Degnan, Chief Human Resources Officer for Nestlé Purina North America. “It’s a privilege to be able to help my fellow service members, and I am proud that Dog Chow supports our nation’s military veterans in such an important and needed way.”
Purina and Dog Chow are also working with members of Congress in support of federal legislation to provide training and service dogs for veterans. The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act (HR4305) will create a pilot program in the VA to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with service dogs. The bill has been approved by the House, but still awaits passage in the Senate. To support this legislation, Dog Chow is asking supporters to visit DogChow.com/service to send an email to their state senators urging them to pass the bill.
If you or a veteran you know could benefit from a service dog, or to learn more about Dog Chow’s efforts, visit DogChow.com/service.