BURRILLVILLE – Angie Cardone, 25, of Burrillville, spent six years as a Marine training dogs for the military.
Now, she’s lending her well-honed skills to a Massachusetts organization called 22Mohawks, which pairs veterans with service and companion dogs.
“Not every vet needs a service dog, but they need companionship. Every vet could use a family dog as a best friend,” Cardone said. “Our goal is to bring veterans purpose.”
Cardone says she knew right away when she joined the Marines that she wanted to train dogs. She had always had a bond with dogs, but the process of joining the K-9 unit is tough, she said.
“First, you had to be a military police officer, and then get selected for K-9. It’s really hard for females, so I did it,” she said.
She was stationed in Japan for three years and then Hawaii for three more.
“So when I was in Japan, it was my first time being completely on my own. I felt very alone to the point that I only had my dog,” Cardone said. “Having that bond was my reason why – she was my purpose. When I was in Hawaii I lost my cousin to suicide. I know how much my dog saved me. I want to show people it’s possible to find your reason why. If I can do it, so can you.”
This is exactly the mission of 22Mohawks, she said.
“We advertise it, and try to let vets know. They fill out a form and we put it in the system and try to match vets with the best dogs for their needs,” she said. “Some want older dogs or a more proactive puppy for their kids.”
Cardone said 95 percent of 22Mohawks’ dogs are from shelters.
“Save dogs to save vets,” she said.
22Mohawks was established as a nonprofit in 2020 in Massachusetts, and is slowly expanding to other states, most recently in Illinois, she said.
The organization hosts 5K races and golf tournaments as fundraisers, and not only matches vets with dogs, but has a yearly parachuting event for veterans, she said.
At the 22Mohawks’ facility in Sharon, Mass., veterans gather every Wednesday for coffee, Cardone noted, adding that communing with other veterans can be critical for their mental health.
“Some people don’t understand unless you’ve been there – even the way veterans talk,” she said.
Cardone is one of about 15 volunteers at 22Mohawks, but she also runs her own dog training company for civilians, Ace of Dogs LLC.
“I love it, I love training dogs,” said Cardone. “I love working with [22Mohawks] because it’s giving back something. It’s the best decision I’ve made. It’s a great organization.”
Cardone still lives with her Begian malinois, Bogi, who was her dog in Japan.
“Bogi changed my life,” she said.
For more information on 22Mohawks visit www.22Mohawks.com.