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Air Force welcomes four-legged lieutenant

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force Chief of Staff, visited Walter Reed Bethesda to commission a four-legged second lieutenant into the Air Force dog therapy program on March 12.

Gen. Welsh, the highest ranking Air Force officer, commissioned Goldie, a Golden Retriever, into the therapy dog program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Welsh was assisted in pinning second lieutenant bars on Goldie's Air Force uniform by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James A. Cody, the highest ranking enlisted member in the Air Force.

In existence since 2007, the dog therapy program at Walter Reed Bethesda is designed to contribute to the well-being of everyone, in particular wounded warriors, their families and medical center staff, and boost their morale with visits by the canines to various clinics, wards, and departments at the nation's largest joint military medical center.

"These dogs have a unique way of reaching and touching patients and staff in ways that no human can," said Navy Capt. David A. Bitonti, the commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Bethesda. "Their unconditional love and support, the ability to bring a smile to the face, or just provide a brief minute of respite from an otherwise strenuous and emotional day, is their niche, and I truly believe they are the best at it."

(Information courtesy of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

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