A Morgan Hill veteran and his service dog have earned national recognition as part of a campaign to promote pet adoption.
And Chau Pham’s story of how his service dog, Apollo, changed his life shortly after they met helped San Martin-based Operation Freedom Paws win a $5,000 grant from a nationwide nonprofit sponsored by the Petco pet store chain.
Pham, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Morgan Hill, submitted his and Apollo’s story to the Petco Love Stories campaign earlier this year. He and Apollo were recently announced as one of 100 Love Stories winners from across the country.
As a result, OFP—the organization who introduced Pham to Apollo—received a $5,000 grant from Petco Love, and Apollo won a shopping spree at Petco. The local man and dog were recognized, and OFP was awarded a check at a Dec. 4 ceremony at the Petco store in Morgan Hill.
OFP now has a chance to win an even bigger grant from Petco Love—up to $25,000—in the Love Stories People’s Choice competition.
OFP Executive Director and Founder Mary Cortani said the nonprofit is “so thankful” that Pham shared his experience with the Love Stories campaign.
“Chau Pham’s story shows how adopted animals change our lives for the better…,” Cortani said. “These funds will help us choose more dogs from shelters, then match them with veterans, first responders and others whose doctors have prescribed service dogs for medical disabilities. Now you can help us create more life saving OFP service dog teams by voting for Chau’s story in the People’s Choice competition.”
The deadline to vote in the Petco Love Stories People’s Choice contest is Dec. 15. The top five stories with the most votes will earn additional grant funding from $5,000 to $25,000. To vote, visit the Petco Love Stories main page at petcolove.org/lovestories/ and click the “VOTE NOW” box.
Pham began working with OFP just as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020. OFP is “a nonprofit organization that helps disabled military veterans by providing mentoring and training with service dogs,” Pham explained in his story, which is posted on the website petcolove.org. “The dogs come from local shelters and are rescues themselves, so both service dogs and handlers work together to give each other a second chance.”
During the many ups and downs of the year that followed, Pham attended hundreds of hours of classes to learn how to effectively work with Apollo to mitigate and manage his disabilities, says a press release from OFP.
“I wouldn’t have survived the 2020 lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic without Apollo’s help,” Pham’s story continues. “I lost my job, dealt with the deaths of my Army friends, and watched as the country I swore to defend (lost) thousands of American citizens every day during the worst of the pandemic. However, no matter how bad it got, my dog was by my side. Apollo was my light and beacon of hope during all these dark times. He is my reason for getting up in the morning because someone has to take him out to go potty.”
Petco Love Stories is an annual campaign to promote pet adoption and animal rescue. Since 2013, more than 20,000 pet adopters have shared how their animals changed their lives. Through the Petco Love Stories campaign, the nonprofit Petco Love has awarded nearly $7 million in grant awards to animal welfare organizations that made these adoption matches possible.