By Anna Skinner
For veterans, a companion animal can serve as a friend and confidant during the difficult time of returning to the states. Wheel Dawgz, a motorcycle charity club, aims to raise funds so veterans can receive a companion animal through the charity Pets Healing Vets.
The group of 10 men – two of which are veterans themselves – either participate in or host motorcycle rides to raise the funds. They also attend other events to raise money for the cause.
The group began in 2013 at Randy’s Memorial Ride.
“Randy Boes was my uncle, and he was a Vietnam veteran,” said Justin Boes, president of Wheel Dawgz. “In June of 2012, he passed away from throat cancer, and the club is in memory of him and things he did, such as always having a dog by his side. He was the inspiration for taking animals and veterans and putting them together.”
All members share three passions: motorcycles, dogs and military vets.
“We do other things that are veteran related, but [Pets Healing Vets] has been our main focus,” said Randy Graham, a member of Wheel Dawgz. “On our last ride in July, we presented them with a check for $9,000. That’s many dogs that can be placed with veterans.”
Most of the members work at IMMI in Westfield. Wheel Dawgz, based in Tipton, has donated $16,000 to Pets Healing Vets, placing approximately 25 dogs with veterans since its creation. All dogs that are placed with veterans come from the Humane Society for Hamilton County.
“The dogs are shelter dogs. It’s a win-win situation because the dogs are from the Humane Society for Hamilton County,” Boes said. “You have the dogs that want a home that are unwanted by some, and a lot of our vets are feeling the same way when they come home … They feel unwanted or are dealing with PTSD and other issues. So you put together a companionship between the veteran and the dog. It’s a win for the veteran and a win for the dog.”
Justin Growden, who currently lives in Fishers, served in Afghanistan in 2010 in the Marine Corps. Since Nov. 20 of last year, he has benefited from the Pets Healing Vets program. Yet Growden isn’t the only appreciative recipient of the situation, as his dog Princess found her home with him after spending a total of six years in the HSHC.
“It’s just me at the house, so she gives me a new sense of responsibility, a companion for sure,” Growden said. “She follows me around the house and loves me unconditionally. It’s nice. She’s the first dog I’ve ever had.”
Since the pair connected, Growden has helped Wheel Dawgz with raising money for Pets Healing Vets.
“Ever since I got her, I’ve been trying to give back as much as I can,” Growden said. “It’s truly beneficial to vets, and they’re putting the dogs in a good home.”
The money donated from Wheel Dawgs to Pets Healing Vets goes toward care for the dog throughout its life so finances are not an added stress to the veteran.
At the end of last year, Wheel Dawgs was granted 501c3 nonprofit status.
For more, visit wheeldawgz.com.
How to help
Donations can be made through PayPal at wheeldawgz.com. Since the organization is 501c3, all donations are tax deductible. Wheel Dawgz apparel will be available through the site at the start of next year. To join or sponsor the club, reach out to Wheel Dawgz President Justin Boes through the Wheel Dawgz Facebook page.