Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Vanquish Worldwide is pleased to announce that its company-sponsored service dog Vanner has been placed with a
deserving veteran through the local nonprofit Smoky Mountain Service Dogs organization.

Not a dry eye was in sight during the Passing of the Leash ceremony in late March, pairing Vanner with retired U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Robert Beaver. The ceremony was attended by many local dignitaries, volunteers and employees of Vanquish Worldwide and its sister companies.

“As a dedicated supporter of military and veterans assistance programs, Vanquish Worldwide is honored to partner with a wonderful organization such as Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, and to top that, we were so fortunate to sponsor such a capable, loyal service dog such as Vanner,” Vanquish President and CEO Dr. Eric W. Barton said. “We know that Vanner will make us proud as a service dog, and we know that he will always serve Robert by the Vanquish motto – Delivering Excellence.”

Vanner was the 18th dog placed by Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, which provides custom-trained mobility assistance service dogs at no cost to veterans. The dogs improve the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of its recipients.

SMSD Chairman Mike Kitchens said Vanner, a stout golden-Lab mix, has all of the characteristics to help Beaver with his mobility issues.

“Robert needs balance and stability because he has severe ankle issues,” Kitchens said. “That was actually a pretty easy decision because Vanner is a great dog and he’s a big boy. … Vanner will keep Robert from falling.”

Beaver served his country 5 ½ years as a firefighter/EMT/HAZMAT technician in the military and two tours overseas. The bond between Vanner and Beaver has already begun.

“They brought him for the home visit and it was an instant connection; I could just tell. He’s so loving, so comforting,” Beaver said. “I am so overwhelmed and so grateful.”

With the help of Vanner, Robert will be able to get back to hiking and other outdoor activities that he enjoys in his home state of West Virginia, Beaver’s mother, Pam, said.

“He has had surgery on one ankle, but his ankles have given out,” Pam said. “Robert also likes to go hiking. He’s not been able to do that, so Vanner will help him with getting out more.”

For Beaver, he is sure Vanner will always be by his side to live life to the fullest.

“He is so phenomenal, so loving, such a sweet dog in general, and then his intelligence and capabilities – phenomenal,” Beaver said.

In 2013, Vanquish and its sister company, LexLin Gypsy Ranch, initiated a Facebook donation campaign by pledging matching funds from both companies to SMSD and raised enough money to support dog selection, raising, training and certification. That training and certification takes about 2 ½ years for each service dog.

In early 2015, Vanquish held a Facebook puppy naming contest for the Vanquish-sponsored SMSD puppy. Vanquish received nearly 200 name suggestions and gifted $50 Amazon gift cards to the top two finalists.

The strong name Vanner not only fits the service dog but also is a nod to sister company LexLin Gypsy Ranch and its Gypsy Vanner horse breed, which are used at equine therapy centers across the U.S. to assist disabled veterans.

“It’s wonderful to be able to assist these wounded veterans,” Kitchens said. “We appreciate all that Vanquish has done. They’ve been there from the beginning, and we look forward to continuing to work with Vanquish.”

Smoky Mountain Service Dogs hopes to soon improve its kennel and training facilities and as a result place 8-10 service dogs a year with deserving veterans.