Veterans find support through dog-leash assembly

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“Co-Op Survival” brings together military families and military caregivers, using dog-leash assembly as a way of connection. This helps eliminate isolation, support family transitions, encourage career goals and build a community of support.

During the hours it takes to make a leash, military caregivers, veterans and community members connect, laugh and relax. They never sell the leashes but instead give the leashes to veterans, veteran organizations, service-dog organizations and donors.

It is hard for a veteran to transition out of the military, but that transition becomes a family transition when the veteran needs assistance. Veterans lose their careers, but so do the caregivers. Not all caregivers are spouses; in fact, 66% of military caregivers are not spouses. Sharon Grassi, President and CEO of Co-Op Survival Board, is a caregiver to her son, a 100% disabled U.S. Army Veteran.

Grassi’s son made the first leash that inspired the group as a gift for his family while he was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“It came from making leashes after he came out. After neurosurgery, he couldn’t make the leashes anymore. We had a ton of paracord, and I brought caregivers together to get rid of the paracord so that we could make leashes and give them away to vets, and it turned into something very unexpected,” said Grassi.

The life of a military caregiver can be very challenging with many unexpected hardships.

“It’s very challenging. Military caregivers’ lives are unpredictable. We face isolation, not just in the larger community, but within our families as well,” said Kelley Stewart, a caregiver for her fiancee.

“It gave us all some common ground to have conversations. Most of us military caregivers come from very diverse backgrounds, and we don’t have a lot in common so it gave us time to listen and to talk to each other,” said Grassi.

Sharon Grassi, President and CEO of Co-Op Survival Board; Kelley Stewart, Caregiver

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