Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Since retiring from the Navy, this veteran has raised 21 guide dogs

Whether she's running into the grocery store or spending an afternoon at the Washington Monument, Melissa Harrington brings Sunny With A Purpose, aka SWAP, along for the ride.

Harrington began volunteering with the nonprofit Guide Dog Foundation following her retirement from the Navy. Since 2002, the Virginia resident and her family have trained 21 service dogs to assist people who are blind. SWAP is an 18-month-old Golden Retriever, and as part of her training, she needs to be exposed to people in different environments. Because of that, SWAP gets to go on lots of adventures with Harrington.

"That's always my goal: By the time I turn in a dog, this dog has been truly socialized and goes places," Harrington told Today. "The more that these dogs have been exposed to — in a very relaxed way — as a puppy is going to serve them in great stead when they're actually out there supporting and making decisions and guiding."

While it is hard to say goodbye at the end of training, Harrington said, it is worth it to know how much these dogs help their new owners. "It is so special and absolutely motivates you to keep going," she said. "I think this is just one of the most fulfilling things that I've ever done."