Ranger, Delaware USO Therapy Dog, competes for 2023 Canine of the Year

  • Published
  • By Mauricio Campino

Ranger, the Delaware USO therapy dog, won second place in the 2023 USO Canine Volunteer of the Year Award on March 15, 2024.

Ranger, a four-year-old golden retriever, is owned by Cari Matthews, Delaware USO center operations and program manager. In 2022, Ranger became a certified therapy dog and has become integral to the military communities at Dover Air Force Base and U.S. Coast Guard Station Indian River. Ranger works closely with the chaplain corps, visiting numerous units and attending Team Dover family and holiday events throughout the year. He can often be found bringing joy to children at Dover AFB or comforting those coping with deployments or loss.

“Having a therapy dog really helps people to open up about their problems,” said Matthews. “Ranger has become a vital part of the USO staff and the Chaplain Corps”

Ranger has comforted the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations staff, who are responsible for bringing home fallen service members. After seeing Ranger’s uplifting effect on the staff, leadership at AFMAO recognized his impact and prompted them to acquire a therapy dog of their own.

“The positive effect that a therapy dog, such as Ranger, can have on our military personnel, particularly those involved in high-intensity missions, is beyond measure, “ said Capt. William Kilgore, AFMAO chaplain.

Ranger was among 18 therapy dogs from USO centers worldwide nominated for the 2023 USO Canine Volunteer of the Year Award. USO employees and volunteers voted and narrowed the selection down to four finalists. On March 15, 2024, staff and service members from the USO centers of the four finalists spoke with Cesar Millan, dog trainer and star of the Emmy-nominated television series “The Dog Whisperer,” via webcam. Millan answered questions from members of Team Dover and offered praise and recognition to each therapy dog and their owners.

Votes from the general public determined the winner. Ranger came second, receiving 3,064 votes from 23 countries and U.S. territories.