Capital campaign continues for new facility

The Vergas Lions made a $1,000 cash donation to Patriot Assistance Dogs, along with offering Quilts of Valor to qualified veterans who use the facility and purchased two commemorative paving bricks for a walkway that is under construction at the facility. The donations were given to Patriot Assistance Dogs founder Linda Wiedewitsch after a group tour and question and answer period Wednesday, April 17. 

By Robert Williams


The Vergas Lions diversified their support for veterans by donating $1,000 to Patriot Assistance Dogs (PAD) in Detroit Lakes on Wednesday, April 17, following a group tour of the new facility.  

Patriot Assistance Dogs founder Linda Wiedewitsch addresses the 14 members of the Vergas Lions who toured and donated to the new facility just east of Detroit Lakes Wednesday, April 17.

¶  “We are very excited to come visit and learn about the facility,” said Pam Krieg, Vergas Lions organizer.  ¶  The facility, located just east of Detroit Lakes, was originally built in the 1980’s as a residential treatment center for youth. The facility sits on 7-acres of land, has six private bedrooms for veterans taking part in the program, along with two handicap accessible bathrooms. The full kitchen, office space, and large meeting rooms came fully furnished, along with a working security system.  ¶  “It’s absolutely perfect for what we want to do,” said founder Linda Wiedewitsch. 

PAD was organized in 2011, placing their first dogs with veterans the following year. Since then, PAD has certified 267 teams. Of those 175 are still serving. The goal is to graduate 25 dogs PAD finds and trains each year and to also help 10-12 dogs that veterans can train themselves each calendar year.

Qualifying dogs need to have specific dispositions and must pass acceptable behavior standards. Some veterans are using their assistance dogs to aid younger dogs and that is helping PAD adjust their prospective numbers where the hope is to have a potential 50/50 split between training dogs at the facility and helping vets train their dogs.

“As our dogs age, some of the veterans are picking up a younger dog and letting that seasoned dog help train that dog coming up,” said Wiedewitsch. “I love that. I love helping them because then I don’t have to worry about making a match. The match is already made. The dog has already figured out some of the things it needs to do. I don’t have to spend time telling them how to handle the dog or integrate the dog into their home or work. They’ve already done that. Whether it’s a dog they bring or a dog we bring in, we treat them all the same. They’re all PAD dogs and afford them all the same privileges and training opportunities.”

Wiedewitsch also discussed the positive impact assistance dogs have, noting the 22-a-day statistic of 22 veterans commit suicide daily in the United States.

“One of our goals is to help lower that number,” she said. “Since we started our program in 2011, we have lost one veteran to suicide.”

That instance occurred with a veteran in the hospital where his dog was not allowed.

  “It was not on the dog’s watch,” said Wiedewitsch. “The dog had kept him alive for five or six years.”

The story got the biggest response from the touring group of Vergas Lions and Wiedewitsch continued with how much of a difference the dogs are making with veterans and how it is becoming noticed more by medical professionals.

“Even the doctors at the VA are starting to realize this is a very viable alternative,” she said. “It’s not the silver bullet. There are pros and cons with having dogs. A dog’s life expectancy is one of them. That’s why we tell the veterans if your dog is aging out or no longer able to perform, develops cancer and dies—you go to the front of the line, but you have to tell us when you’re ready for another dog.”

Prospective dogs go through around $1,500 worth of veterinary work if not completed prior, and the perfect dog is around 1-year-old. Some dogs train up faster than others ranging from months to longer than one year. The cost for procuring and training each dog is approximately $20,000.

PAD opened the facility and held its first training class with veterans in July of 2023. The training class rotation is the last week of the month, once per quarter, beginning in January, April, July and October. There are 2-3 classes with veterans who are training their own dogs depending on how many qualify.

PAD is in the process of finalizing their accreditation with Assistance Dogs International, which is mandatory for veterans having assistance dogs allowed with them into VA Hospitals. Non-accredited dogs are not allowed.

“It’s very important that we get our accreditation and we’ve done everything they’ve asked,” said Wiedewitsch.

After paying the $2,000 fee, an evaluator will visit the facility to complete the process in the second or third quarter of this year.

Additional kennel bays for training will be added once the property is completely paid off at the completion of the capital campaign.

PAD has all levels of volunteer opportunities. 

There are also multiple fundraisers coming up like the second annual Aiming High for PAD sporting fundraiser in May, the fourth annual Rescue Ride and Car Show in June and the 12th annual golf tournament in July. Visit for more information on those events, fundraising and the PAD Veteran Store.

For more information on matching a dog with a veteran or donating to the cause, visit

The Vergas Lions added to their donation by purchasing two customizable bricks as part of the “Paving the way for PAD” program that will create a walkway leading from the main building down to the new kennel building.

Patriot Assistance Dogs is located at 28579 U.S. Highway 10, Detroit Lakes.