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Helping disabled veterans, one beagle at a time

By Deb Everts

A Great Valley couple has found that the love of a beagle can make a huge difference in the life of a disabled veteran.

What started out as just an idea is blossoming into a Veterans’ Emotional Support Animal Program, something Don and Jennifer Cramer are making a reality with help from the community.

In this program, the Cramers will be gifting beagles from their kennel, Muleskinnerz Beagles LLC, to qualified veteran recipients. They will be personally donating a beagle puppy every year and, as their female breeders retire at a young age of 4 to 5 years old, they will periodically gift an adult beagle from their kennel.

The couple has witnessed first-hand the power of a dog’s love. Through this program, they hope to give back by sharing their dogs with disabled veterans and their families.

A veteran himself, Don knows what it’s like to suffer with a disability. He has significant hearing loss from working around the planes when he served in the United States Air Force during the Gulf War. Since then, communication for him has become difficult, unless it is one-on-one and face-to-face.

According to Jennifer, the idea for the emotional support animal program began in November 2014 with two little beagles that gave her husband some relief. That was when she gave him Sno-Ballz — his emotional support animal — and Liddel Wun, her sister, for his birthday.

“Don had always talked about his love for hunting with his family and their beagles. The excitement and smile he had speaking of the ‘good ole’ days’ gave me the idea for the pups,” she said. “When he discovered how much the beagles were helping him while he worked with them, he decided to form his business, Muleskinnerz Beagles LLC, in July 2018.” 

Jennifer said their Peer-to-Peer Christian-based program uses the love of God and beagles, both unconditional and never-ending, to help veterans with their own struggles in hopes of restoring joy and hope for a better tomorrow.

Jennifer said they want to start by erecting a pavilion on the kennel grounds as a meeting place for the recipients to receive their dogs and get involved in the club. She said the dogs will be gifted and future fundraisers will generate money to pay for their memberships, so there will be no cost to the veterans. They’ll also make sure the dogs are spayed or neutered and up-to-date on all their shots.

The Cramers are members of the Enchanted Mountains Beagle Club and enjoy participating in AKC field trial events. Jennifer said they have access to a 140-acre fenced-in pen, and they want these veterans to get involved in the events as well.

According to the United States Dog Registry, emotional support dogs provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder/mood disorder, among others.

“A service dog or a therapy dog has a specific job to do, so the criteria is very strict for them. An emotional support dog only has to give love,” Jennifer said. “A licensed mental health counselor will determine if the veteran is an appropriate candidate for an emotional support dog.”

When she is ready, Mrs. Muleskinnerz Matters of the Heart “Maddie” will be their first adult dog to be gifted. Jennifer said they are currently talking with two veterans who are interested in Maddie, but the first puppy is secured.

The first veteran to receive a Muleskinnerz beagle puppy was Don Siegel of Westline, Pa., on Sept. 1. A former Army Paratrooper, Siegel served his country in Grenada, Honduras and Nicaragua from 1982-87. Jennifer said he used to rabbit hunt with his dad when he was younger. She said the look on his face was priceless, and he’s “over the moon” excited to have a beagle. 

“I cannot believe how much God is working to bring this idea to life,” she said. “It’s all unfolding, one blessing at a time.” 

To share this healing discovery, Don and Jennifer Cramer are hosting the Muleskinnerz Beagle Bash fundraiser Sept. 14.at 4803 Porter Hollow Road, in Great Valley, from noon to 6 p.m. 

Families will have the opportunity to participate in fun activities while supporting this worthy cause. The event will include a corn hole tournament with prizes, a 50/50 raffle, Chinese auction, food and entertainment by DJ Mick McMillan. 

The Chinese auction will include an overnight stay at the Wingate by Wyndham in Ellicottville. Since the cornhole tournament is supposed to be just for fun, set teams are not allowed and partners will be randomly chosen. Entry fee is $10; registration closes at 1:45 p.m. and the tournament will start at 2.

Suggested donation is $10. Children under 10 years old will be admitted free. All proceeds will be used to erect a pavilion as a gathering place for disabled veterans in the program. 

Donations can be mailed to: Muleskinnerz Beagles LLC, 4803 Porter Hollow Road, Great Valley, NY 14741.

For more information, call 803-4986, email muleskinnerzbeagles@gmail.com or visit muleskinnerzbeagles.com.

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