DAHLGREN, Va. – Honor. It’s a Navy core value that retired Chief Warrant Officer Ed Hudson holds close to his heart and the name he chose for the guide dog he raises.
Like the warfighter, Honor serves selflessly to accomplish the mission of which she’s been trained.
For this reason, guide dogs, like Honor, make great companions for "those who can’t see and those who don’t want to remember what they saw," said Hudson, a volunteer of Southeastern Guide Dogs, a nonprofit that provides services to the visually impaired, veterans, children, and teenagers.
The Cyber Technologies and Software Systems Division head at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division highlighted his journey with raising guide dogs during a Veterans Integration event, Dec. 5.
He beamed when he talked about his dogs, the joy they have brought into his life, and why veterans may want to consider becoming volunteers.
Hudson reflected on the day over a decade ago when his wife came home and said, “let’s raise puppies.” After tearing the white carpet out of the home, the couple was ready for their first puppy.
They reached out to Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida to get started.
“They are helping people with needs get what they need to succeed,” he said of the organization.
The first puppy they welcomed into their home they affectionately named Lucky, reflective of her high energy. Lucky was certified as an arson detection dog.
The next puppy, Leonora, was named after his wife’s friend who had passed away and was an “animal lover,” said Hudson.
The third dog the Hudsons raised was Sammie, named after Hudson’s father-in-law, who he described as “a great lover of puppies.”
“The dogs can really help people come out of their shell and enjoy life again,” said Hudson.
Ten years ago, the Hudsons moved from Florida to Dahlgren. In one year, all three dogs passed away – leaving the couple heartbroken.
“It is hard to say goodbye,” said Hudson. “They really became a part of the family.”
The Hudson’s were asked if they would consider raising a guide dog through a tele-raiser program. They chose a dog and named her Honor.
All training – including tele-raising training – can span from 18 months to two years, depending on the dog breed. The Hudsons taught Honor about 40 commands during training he described as “elementary school.”
After the dog is trained, Honor will return to Florida where it will go to school.
Hudson, who looked fondly at a photo of Honor, plans to retire in March and continue raising guide dogs.
“It brought a lot of joy to my life, and I plan to do it as long as I can,” said Hudson.
The Navy veteran who served for 20 years encouraged his fellow veterans to “find something in life that makes you feel like you are not just existing.”
Hudson found Honor and a calling to train guide dogs that he says comes down to four words – “It’s all about service.”
The NSWCDD Employee Engagement Program, which includes the Veteran Integration Initiative, sponsored the event that also gave veterans in attendance an opportunity to connect and network.