Sunday, 26 September 2021
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Teen gets her wish to train military working dogs

Selena, a Mililani resident, visits Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and gets an opportunity to learn how to train military working dogs.

Story and photo by Erin Huggins

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

The Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) K-9 unit and Make-A-Wish® Hawaii (MAWH) worked together Aug. 17 to help reveal that a local Mililani girl’s wish of working with dogs would be coming true.

Selena, a 13-year-old from Mililani, has always loved dogs. But it wasn’t until she read “War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love” by Rebecca Frankel that she started dreaming of working with and training dogs.

MAWH set into motion the opportunity for Selena to train actual working dogs. With the help of JBPHH, Selena was able to visit Hickam’s Military Working Dog Section, where she received a tour of the kennels, watched a bite demonstration and a simulated police chase, gave some commands to the dogs, and participated in a drug detection demonstration.

It was during this drug detection demonstration where Selena’s wish became a reality. After she opened the suitcase she was helping a trainer screen, it was revealed to her that her wish to be a service dog trainer was coming true. She learned that she would be going to Canine Companions for Independence in California.

“We are blown away by the incredible support of the K-9 unit at JBPHH,” said Make-A-Wish Hawaii Wish coordinator Jennifer Canaya-Michel.

“When they heard about Selena, they completely embraced the opportunity to play a role in her wish journey, and we are so grateful for all of the hard work and creativity that went into making this such a memorable experience for her.”

JBPHH military working dog trainers, Staff Sgt. Justin Leon Guerrero and Staff Sgt. Terry Pasko, released a joint statement, saying that “When the Make-A-Wish foundation reached out to us to help bring Selena’s dream a reality, we as a team were beyond excited to be a part of this event.

We participate in numerous activities within the community and throughout the military, but nothing quite as personal and heartwarming as this wish-reveal for Selena. K-9 trainers and handlers have a small community and we lean on each other for support. We want to encourage Selena to never give up on her dreams and JBPHH K9 is there to help support her any way we can.”

MAWH creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Headquartered in Honolulu, MAWH continues to be among the busiest chapters in the nation. Since 1982, MAWH has granted more than 1,300 wishes for local children and has hosted over 14,000 children from around the world.

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